Publication1The old adage “Curiosity killed the cat” came to mind the other day during a conversation (aka: a “rant”) in one of my classes at Curry College, where I head the undergrad Public Relations Concentration and teach most of the PR courses.

We had had a writing assignment on the “democratization” of reading that came about in part because of the introduction of paperback books.

It was glaringly obvious as I was reviewing the papers that no one had a clue as to the actual meaning of the word…and not a single soul had bothered to look it up.

While I was all set to launch into a self-righteous hissy-fit, I chose not to go that route.

Instead, I settled down for a discussion…not the first time, mind you!…of the “real world,” and how our bosses and others expect us to either know the answer or be able to find the answer.

They don’t expect us to simply blunder along, blissfully clueless as to the true meaning of a situation our organization might be facing.

My more academic colleagues call this “critical thinking;” being able to puzzle out the underlying significance of a particular word or sentence, being able to take abstract thoughts and ideas and find a deeper meaning.

I call it being willing to go the extra mile to gain a better understanding by asking questions and expressing opinions. By asking, and answering, the question, “What does it mean?”

To drill down even further, I call it “curiosity,” and it often leads to wonderfully innovative things like light bulbs, Post-it notes, and Velcro… along with radio, television, movies, and all sorts of “gotta have” stuff.

It all starts simply enough. You ask, “Why?” or “What if…?”

Then you dig deeper and deeper searching for the truth… for the answer… for the alternative.

Somewhere along the way, though, someone lost sight of this concept and replaced it with an “Oh well, it probably wasn’t important anyway” attitude.

So answers go undiscovered. Facts lie unfound. And problems that could or should have been easily resolved blossom into full-fledged crises.

As a PR professional, I refer often to the PRSA Code of Ethics‘ statement on “Expertise” which says: We acquire and responsibly use specialized knowledge and experience. We advance the profession through continued professional development, research, and education. We build mutual understanding, credibility, and relationships among a wide array of institutions and audiences.”

Whatever your chosen career path might be, now’s your chance to buck the trend. I’m sure you, yourself, are not among this “blind leading the blind” group.

But take it one step further.

Challenge those with whom you work… those who work for you… any- and everyone… to not accept willing ignorance of the facts of a situation. Ask the question “why?” and insist that they search for answer.

Curiosity, regardless of what you may have been taught as a younger-you, is not a bad thing, and it’s certainly not fatal!