Curiosity: The Feature We Share

The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.

– Albert Einstein

The Analytics Hall of Fame is populated by a variety of people who are practitioners, academics, consultants, and vendors.

We are from a variety of specialties, including Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, Business Intelligence, Big Data, CRM, Martech, Sales and Marketing Automation, Digital Marketing and Analytics, Social Intelligence, Marketing Research, Market and Competitive Intelligence.

We come from the entire range of industries. We come from a diverse assortment of educational backgrounds. We come with the entire spectrum of experience from greenhorn to silverback. But we have one thing in common.

Curiosity at Our Core

In his book, “The Curiosity Gene: On the Origin of Humankind by Means of Intrinsic Motivation,”

Alexandros Kourt suggests that inquisitiveness is central to human survival. Are intelligence would not, could not have evolve if we stopped asking questions.

We analytics professionals stand out from the crowd because we use data, statistics, and advanced algorithms to scratch that inquisitive itch.

We still need to understand statistical significance, identify anomalies and discount the noise. We still need to understand where the data come from and how they relate. We will always need to be talented at communication and collaboration. We will only thrive if we have very deep knowledge of the domain in which we are performing analytics.

But without curiosity, we are not Analytics Professionals.

We love to solve puzzles. We are drawn to detective novels, sudoku puzzles, and crosswords. Our ears prick up when we hear the words, “A train leaves Baltimore for New York City traveling at 60 miles per hour….”

Curating Curiosity

Hire for curiosity just as you hire for interpersonal skills. It’s very hard to teach somebody to be empathetic, responsible, or creative. You can encourage and foster curiosity and should do so at every opportunity.

Curiosity is vital to invention, innovation, and keeping the cat population under control. Curiosity means you are open-minded, engaged, interested, and generally more interesting.

The brain rewards itself for learning with dopamine. It’s that emotional rush you feel when you achieve realization; that moment that makes you cry, “Ah-ha!”

I just figured out what to get my wife for her birthday!

I just figured out how to get my teenager to shovel the snow!

I just figured out which datasets are the most likely to yield more predictive features!

One study, “scanned subjects with fMRI while they read trivia questions… showing that subjects spend more scarce resources (either limited tokens, or waiting time) to find out answers when they are more curious. The fMRI also showed that curiosity increases activity in memory areas when subjects guess incorrectly, which suggests that curiosity may enhance memory for surprising new information. This prediction about memory enhancement is confirmed in a behavioral study- higher curiosity in the initial session is correlated with better recall of surprising answers 10 days later.”

The Analytics Hall of Fame is filled with the curious. The people who ask, “Why?” and, “Why?” again. We have to get to the bottom of things before we can rest.

We just love to stretch our minds.

Curiosity is addictive – fortunately, it’s contagious as well.

 

Written by: Jim Sterne

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