February 11, 2021

The Role of Curiosity in an Entrepreneurial Mindset

#becurious sign
By: Sarah Williamson


As children, all of us started life with a voracious appetite for knowledge. The more surprises we encountered in our everyday life, the more eager we were to figure out what was going on. 

But over time, we became less curious. According to author and psychologist Susan Engel, preschoolers between the ages of 3 and 5 will ask their parents between 25 and 50 questions per hour, yet they will ask less than two once they arrive in school. By the time they reach middle school, they basically stop asking questions entirely. 

Not surprisingly, at about this time, student engagement begins to plummet. This decline makes teachers more likely to rely on extrinsic rewards (or threats of punishment), further undermining students’ intrinsic desire to learn. As a result, learning is often perceived as something to be endured rather than the source of fulfillment and growth.

“We’re not doing what we could be doing to encourage the kinds of investigation and exploration that really lie at the heart of the educational process,” Engel says. Teachers often discourage unstructured learning, questions, and time for musing, focusing instead on getting through lesson plans with as few detours as possible. 

Curiosity is also often a discouragement in the workplace. As organizations focus on repetition and efficiency, they often rely on processes and procedures that encourage compliance rather than curiosity. In many cases, people perceive questioning as a threat or an act of defiance. After all, we are not being paid to question things; we get paid to follow the rules.

Curiosity and Knowledge

Curiosity is critical to an entrepreneurial mindset, the specific set of beliefs, knowledge, and thought processes that drive entrepreneurial behavior. People with an entrepreneurial mindset tend to be lifelong knowledge seekers who focus on micro-experiments as learning opportunities to test ideas, cultivate creativity, and think critically. 

Entrepreneurs’ search for knowledge is internally driven. Like preschoolers who ask dozens of questions an hour, they retain the ability to expose themselves to new opportunities to learn. They approach life as a series of experiments, asking “What if?” at every turn. They continually test their ideas and look for solutions. They accept the responsibility to reach for a better life rather than passively accepting their circumstances. 

Knowledge and Effort

Combined with effort, knowledge drives entrepreneurs—a rocket engine that thrusts them beyond their limitations and leads them toward their goals. 

Working harder by itself is rarely the path to success. Our efforts can only take us as far as our understanding. If we are to accomplish our goals, we must increase our knowledge. This is an essential aspect of the entrepreneurial mindset. 

Knowledge is easy to access and readily available in today’s world—both “book learning” and real-life experience. Other entrepreneurs are often willing to share their hard-earned wisdom with anyone who will listen. They will lend a hand to those who express a genuine desire to learn.

Effort and Outcomes

Entrepreneurs are action-orienting. They learn by doing. If they do not get the results they desire the first time (or second or third), they reflect on what happened, make adjustments, and try again. They leave their comfort zones and make peace with the awkwardness that comes from not getting something quite right. 

They apply the entrepreneurial mindset through perseverance and determination until it becomes second nature. 

Having a compelling goal lures us beyond the confines of familiarity, habitual patterns of thought, and daily routines. When we are pursuing what is right for us, our psyche produces the energy, focus, and fortitude necessary for achieving that meaningful goal. We avoid the trap of assuming that others control our lives or that someone else will tell us what to do. Rather than fitting in and following rules, we figure things out for ourselves. 

Once we accept that our knowledge combined with our effort ultimately determines the outcome, we become internally driven. We focus on the future and make proactive choices toward our chosen destination. And that activates our innate curiosity and awakens our natural desire to learn, the same one we had when we were preschoolers.