The power of curiosity…

Probably the best (and real pithy) summation for the power of curiosity are the 6 faithful serving men that Rudyard Kipling alluded to:
“I KEEP six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.”

In the 90’s I had the opportunity to visit the Fuji Xerox manufacturing facility in Japan. Later in life, I had the good fortune to attend a Kaizen workshop run by the father of the movement himself…Masaaki Imai. I recall to this day the simple anecdote he used to describe the benefits of being curious at all times…especially when one is seekingĀ  to uncover the Root cause of the problem…and not just the symptom of the problem. Here is his anecdote on the benefit of asking “why?” at least five times:

At an Auto Repair Shop, a worker is seemingly throwing sand on the shop floor.
The supervisor asks: “What are you doing?”
Worker: “Throwing sand on the floor”
Supervisor: “Why?”
Worker: “Because the floor is slippery”
Supervisor: “Why is the floor slippery?”
Worker: “Because there is oil on the floor”
Supervisor: “Why is there oil on the floor?”
Worker: “Because oil isĀ  leaking from the engine of this car we are servicing”
Supervisor: Why is the oil leaking from the car?”
Worker: “I don’t know”
Supervisor: “Let’s investigate shall we?”
The resultant investigation identified worn out gaskets to be the cause for Oil leaking onto the shop floor.

I still apply this analogy to this day when trying to teach basic Problem solving and Root Cause Analysis skills…the best example of putting curiosity to good and practical use.