Curiosity is both a necessary trait for survival and a creative strategy. As a line of defense, our curiosity startles us when a stranger walks up from behind. As a form of information gathering, it compels us to continuously look around for new bits of information with no immediate use. However, in the long run those tidbits become the knowledge that enables us to understand our surroundings.
Curiosity is strange in how it is simultaneously, powerful and fleeting. Edmond Burke once wrote, “…curiosity is the most superficial of all the affections; it changes its object perpetually, it has an appetite which is very sharp, but very easily satisfied; and it has always an appearance of giddiness, restlessness, and anxiety.”
One theory of how curiosity works is the Optimal Arousal Model. In this theory, we are motivated to maintain a certain, optimal, amount of stimulation. According to this, really extreme things and really boring things are to be avoided. But those things that get us going at the optimal level are to be continued, hence the success of Candy Crush. How does this simple game keep us so obsessed? Games like Candy Crush are successful because they are able to maintain a good balance between too much and too little success. We often achieve successes, so it is within our reach. Periodically though, things get tough and we have something to strive for. With that right balance, curiosity takes over and compels us to continue.
Curiosity is an excellent tool for creative people. It motivates us find out new things. People who maintain a curious disposition are less likely to be certain, and more likely to investigate. As I state in my upcoming book, A Curious Path: Creativity in an Age of Abundance, curiosity is the fuel for creativity.