Innovation Curiosity

Innovation CuriosityI had the opportunity to meet several amazing explorers of land, sea, and space at the announcement of Shell’s sponsorship of the XPrize Foundation’s exploration prize group recently. The explorers they had present at the event included:

  • Richard Garriott, Vice Chair, Space Adventures, Ltd., legendary video game developer and entrepreneur; among first private citizen astronauts to board International Space Station, America’s first second-generation astronaut; and X PRIZE Foundation trustee
  • David Gallo, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, renowned undersea explorer, among first oceanographers combining manned submersibles and robots to map ocean world; co-leader of recent Titanic exploration; project leader, successful search for missing Air France Flight 447
  • Mark Synnott, global mountain climber who has climbed some of the biggest rock faces and ice walls on the planet, ventured into among the least-visited locales on earth, photographed the globe’s most spectacular sites; and is a senior contributing editor of Climbing magazine.
  • Chris Welsh is a co-founder of Virgin Oceanic and is an accomplished entrepreneur, sailor and aviator who recently finished 25,000 miles of intense competitive sailing. Chris has made five LA-Hawaii crossings and one LA-Tahiti-Tonga-Auckland-Tasmania crossing.

Encouraging Curiosity

I had the opportunity to hear Mark Synnott speak of how despite the enormous risk he undertakes in his climbing explorations, that the thing that scares him most is the possibility of slipping on easy ground. When he is attempting a difficult portion of a climb, he is always thinking about what his exposure to risk is, but on easy portion it is easy to forget to take proper precautions. Yet, when it comes to his kids Mark thinks he is probably one of the world’s most over-protective parents, but at the same time he wants to inspire his kids to be curious about the world.

Gerald Schotman of Shell hopes that the challenges they pursue with the XPRIZE Foundation will stimulate curiosity in children and adults around the world, and that it will help to encourage people (even their own employees) to embrace their explorer mindset.

My conversation with Mark and Gerald led me to think to myself, I wonder what the role of curiosity is in innovation?

While I was pondering this question, my conversations continued and I probed further to examine the link between curiosity and innovation.

The Role of Curiosity in Innovation

Peter Diamandis of the XPRIZE Foundation talked about how for him the link between curiosity and innovation is the following:

“What should be possible that doesn’t yet exist?”

This is a great question to inspire curiosity and stimulate thinking that could lead to innovation.

Different Approaches to Innovation

The Role of Curiosity in InnovationPeter Diamandis talked about how we need to ask where a breakthrough should be possible and focus on structuring an innovation challenge to help harness people’s curiosity to push past current obstacles in thinking or execution. Peter has learned first-hand that small teams are amazingly powerful, and talked about how big organizations focus on reducing risk by throwing lots of money and resources at a challenge. On the flip side though, when you put a box around a challenge with a small budget and a small team, then that small team of people will know the traditional approach will fail – and try a different approach.

One of the things that the XPRIZE Foundation does with their challenge prizes is to force people to build and demonstrate something. Ideas are easy and people’s perspectives on what’s possible changes when they have to build and demonstrate their solution.

Challenges uncovered during exploration and execution often prove more challenging to solve than anticipated. Chris Welsh of Virgin Oceanic talked about how both he and James Cameron thought they were working on 18 month projects that for both have turned into 4 to 5 year journeys. For those of you not familiar with Virgin Oceanic’s mission, they are hoping to send one person to the deepest point in each of the world’s five oceans.

Bringing Curiousity Out of Its Shell

When I spoke to Gerald Schotman of Shell about curiosity he spoke about trying to recruit curious people into Shell, leading by example, and attempting to trigger curiosity by setting scary targets:

“If your dreams don’t scare you, you’re not being ambitious enough”

Exploration of the Exploitation

In speaking with David Gallo about exploration of the seas, he spoke about how when we oversell a danger like climate change in the media, it is damaging – there is no plastic island the size of Texas in the middle of the ocean. But there is a chemistry change in the ocean, a soup, a film leads to us eating our own garbage as plastic, flame retardants, and other runoff embed themselves in the tissue of the fish we eat. We have changed the temperature and the chemistry of the oceans, and anyone who has an aquarium knows that’s a bad idea.

Xprize Polar BearWe must reduce the runoff into the oceans and stop over-fishing if they are going to be able to help sustain us for the long-term. In the meantime, we must explore more of the oceans that cover 70% of the earth. To date, we have only mapped 5% of the ocean floor, meaning there are huge areas of the ocean that we’ve never been to.

Chris Welsh talked about how at the bottom of the ocean it might be possible to find a liquid CO2 reservoir deep down, and that at its edges we might be able to observe chemosynthesis taking place instead of photosynthesis. There were people talking about underwater rivers, waterfalls, and lakes – all of it a bit challenging for me to understand – but exciting to see where continued exploration of our undersea world might lead.

Expected and Unexpected Outcomes from Exploration

One of the outcomes that we would expect from exploration is the commercialization of some of what we find. In Richard Garriott’s case he has a business selling novel proteins from the ocean floor and crystallized proteins from space.

At the same time, Chris Welsh talked about the recovery of rock life from 30 meters within the rock at the bottom of the ocean and how this microbial was 140 million years old and had been consuming the sulphur out of the rock. Then Russ Conser of Shell added that most oil comes not from plants and dinosaurs but from microbial life.

Meanwhile, one of Mark Synnott’s stories was from a National Geographic climb of a cliff in the Amazon rainforest where they discovered nine new species living on the cliff face – including a giant green earthworm. I’m not sure anyone expected that. And that is the thing about exploration. If you don’t explore, you don’t know what you’ll miss finding or what further discoveries a single exploration might lead to because of the curiosity it stimulates.

Final Thoughts on Curiosity

After spending the day amazed at some of the things these people are exploring and discovering, I think I crystallized my thoughts on the link between curiosity and innovation that I wondered about at the beginning of this article, and here it is:

Curiosity drives invention, invention empowers innovation, and innovation delivers increased value to our lives.

So, if we want to increase the volume of innovation in our organizations and societies, we need to inspire and foster curiosity in our employees, citizens, and children. But more than that, we need to encourage people to explore in the areas they are curious about. From that exploration, discoveries will take place that could change the world. This leaves us with three final questions:

  1. What are you curious about?
  2. What are they curious about?
  3. What can you provide that would help them pursue their curiosity?

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Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. Braden is also the editor of Innovation Excellence, a popular innovation speaker and trainer, and advises companies on connecting with their customers and embedding innovation across the organization.

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12 Responses to Innovation Curiosity

  1. Nwaike charles emeka says:

    To Gerald Schotman .I am a petroleum engineer,i had derived alternative hypothesis how to convert natural gas methane to liquid heptane using a deliquescent salt to check gas flaring.Treating and cleaning of oil and gas spill and putting-off fire resulting from petroleum product,so I promise to send him a porfolio of my work so he can respond to it by given me a call to come over to enchance the development.

  2. nwaike charles emeka says:

    write more on how methane gas is converted as a means of checking gas flaring knowing fully well that gas can be compressed aswell as liquid the salt composition is a liquid benzene and a hex hydrogen gas so they can be compressed to form a bonds of heptane that is stable to run automobile.ch4-c6h6 6h—–compressed to produced —–heptane as a means of checking gas flaring instead of null hypothesis of the gas being compressed to form ethene or oxyethene which methane gas reacting with carbon(iv)oxide gas the chemical formula is ch4-co2–”"”c2h4.o2 is unstable and unsaturated hydrocarbon and the normal storage in a tank is less economy important and is not enviromental friendly to be compare with the product produced from the reaction of methane gas and the deliquescency salt benzene hex hydrogen gas.

  3. nwaike charles emeka says:

    still writing on how to convert methane gas to liquid as a means of checking gas flaring,knowing the hazard it poss to human health and environmental degradation of it and is of economy waste.

  4. filmexx says:

    You can certainly see your skills within the work you write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. At all times follow your heart.

    • nwaike charles emeka says:

      To filmexx,the possibility of apply a skill on writing an adventurous movie on gas flaring and it’s solution considering the culture,ethnic rivary,political rivary,engineer and sicenctific rivary,cultism (for those that believe in 666 which is benzene hex-hydrogen to get resonnace ),schoolars and religion.

  5. Nwaike charles emeka says:

    Why will cameron start working on convertion of methane gas to liquid heptane without contact me what kind of reasoning is that.this my phone number 08145434466.think well.

  6. Nwaike Charles emeka says:

    Base on convertion of methane gas to liquid heptane which is petrol as a means of checking gas flaring and natural gas convertion, using methane gas to react with benzene and six hydrogen prepared from hydration of water to 2.4g less denser than air.i have developed a law called emeka/nwiki’s law of endocondensation of natural gas which is methane gas to liquid petrol which is heptane from organic chemistry which state that the equal volume of the find substance are equal in volume in the compressor to a degree of 0.6842 petrol is produce,secondly treating and cleaning crude oil and natural gas spillage to neutralized the sulphur and other impurites presence others petroleum product .thirdly to put-off fire resulting from petroleum products from rigs,industries, automobiles and home gadgets .To developed a course called petroleum chemistry production engineering to be known as EMEKA, To write a text book on the course

  7. Nwaike Charles emeka says:

    Treating and cleaning this these rock oils called petroleum is using hydroscopic salt called calcium hydroxide pentahydrate(v) works by neutralisation process. and putting off this fire that result from this product is by using an hydroscopic salt calcium hydroxide ethahydrate(ii) it works by neutralisation process.

  8. Nwaike Charles emeka says:

    If the preparation of hydrogen base on it density which is 14.4g less dense than air whereby six-hydrogen or hex-hydrogen is 2.4g and 86.4g in respect of density=mass/volume or mass= volume multiply by density

  9. Nwaike Charles emeka says:

    (1)To put up a show title ‘off the smoke tour’gas flaring pipes showing the gas being converted. (2) Novels

  10. Nwaike Charles emeka says:

    I send a letter to gerald schotman,i had met with him a couple of time while doing some Din study on convertion of methane gas to liquid heptane as a means of checking gas flaring and natural gas,treating and cleaning of crude oil and gas spill and putting off fire from a rig, asking me to wait for cars other group pronouce me a world cup player in brazil 2014.Since i had or have not heard from him.Please

  11. Nwaike charles emeka says:

    Please give me a call

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