More Curious Learning

Original Post here. This revised post has additional resources to bring out your inner curiosity.

Curiosity is the gateway to learning.


Innate Curiosity, Challenge Conventional Thinking, Courage of Conviction.

Those who are regular readers have heard me speak of this before in the the 5 Tips to Starting a Learning Rebellion 

To me it looks like this.

Learning Rebel 3 C


All three interlock, one for all and all for one, and all that good stuff.  Lately my focus has been on curiosity.  I’m stumped as to why, as an industry, we aren’t more curious about the world around us.  I suppose it will take bigger brains that mine to figure out why people just accept what they are told or what they believe as final word, regardless of facts and data.  Oh wait, someone has… Why Do People Persist in Believing Things That Just Aren’t True” ~ From the New Yorker

Here is a telling conclusion from the above article: “The message can’t change unless the perceived consensus among figures we see as opinion and thought leaders changes first.” Sometimes it’s HR leadership, or business leadership or even clients who are demanding we implement these myths as truths, our role is not to sit back and blindly smile and nod but to speak up and plant the seeds to thought independence.

First we need to know our stuff, build our knowledge, work up a curiosity and not accept myths as truths  – let’s take Learning Styles as an example; find research, find data, read the whitepapers, and draw your own conclusions.  However because VAK (or some adaptation of the 70+ learning styles models) is in just about every “Train the Trainer” book created, we take the collective word of authority as absolute.  We take the easy path as assume tribal knowledge must be correct, it’s easier to believe the talking points than actually read the story.

Here are a few great resources for debunking common learning myths – be curious, I dare you.

The Myth of Learning Styles :by Cedar Riener and Daniel Willingham

Another e-learning, Generational Myth Debunked: Chief Learning Officer

Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally Meaningless: Joseph Stromberg  

Here are more resources, for when curiosity strikes  – with Guy Wallace: Foo Foo in Instructional Design, resources

That being said, let me break down learning curiosity into two areas.  


Curiosity2 As L&D professionals, we should be insanely, innately, ravenously curious about our industry.  

What are you reading now? What have you learned about “learning” lately? With whom are you having a robust conversation about learning? Example, just the other day, the beginning of debate surface between myself and a peer about role playing (I dislike them, he doesn’t).  Those types of debates are good for the brain, it feeds the mind. Doctor heal thyself! Innovation in learning does not happen because we are satisfied with what is happening around us, it happens because of the exact opposite. Learning is uncomfortable, true learning curiosity takes us out of our comfort zone, makes us think and puts us in a place where we begin to question the comfortable warm blanket around us.

Why? Should be the question on all our lips at the ready.  Why do we do “it” this way? Why does “everyone” believe “that”? Why isn’t there a better way? Why Not?

Coming up on January 19th, is a new #LRNbk.  (This is a twitter version of a book club, click on the hashtag for further information.)  I CAN’T WAIT! We will be reading Kio Stark’s Don’t Go Back to School, available from her site and from Amazon. I’ll be participating, You know why? Because, I guarantee I’ll learn a thing or two and be inspired in some way.  That’s why. Because I’m curious about this book, I’ve been reading a lot about the author, and now it’s time to read it and share those thoughts with others, I’m curious and I want to learn more. #WorkOutLoud.

Let’s put it this way – As trainers, we have planned sessions where the assigned pre-work includes reading of some sort.  We then shake our collective heads in dismay when the students tell us they didn’t have the time to do the reading.  “Shame on them, don’t they know the reading was important to the course?”  Shame on us, if we have different expectations of the student than we do ourselves.  If we don’t have time to “sharpen the saw” how can expect people, whose day to day doesn’t include daily development, to “sharpen their saw”? Pot.Black. Yeah I’m looking at you! 

Big picture We should be just as curious about the business for which we work.  

During the last session I facilitated, which included L&D professionals, I asked the group about understanding company financials.  Embarrassingly only a smattering of hands went up. We want a seat at the table, but we don’t want to do the work that will get us there.  YOU have to build the chair and drag it to the table people.  If you remember from CSI: Learning Needs Investigation, at any given time you should be able to answer the following questions about your business:

  1. What are the financial goals for your business this year?
  2. What are the key strategic thrusts of your organization?
  3. Where is your department to budget as of this point in the year?
  4. Is the sales team on task to meet their sales goals?
  5. What are the top initiatives of IT? HR? Marketing?
  6. Are top line revenues producing bottom-line results?
  7. What are the results of the last safety audit?
  8. What is the turnover percentage of the organization?
  9. What are the KPI’s of your department, where are you to meeting those KPI’s?
  10. Did you read last year’s annual report?  Where you on the last company update call to stockholders? Would you be able to hold your own during a discussion about the business results?

If you can’t answer those basic business questions, then you need to put on your curious hat. Your company P&L tells story, it’s up to your to know how to read it and find the story.  Don’t know how? That’s okay, that’s what curiosity is for, it means seeking out a person in the organization to mentor you, and help you to improve and learn.


Learning Rebels think for themselves, form opinion based on solid research and not as quoted above; dependent on the opinions of leadership, or even the customer.  Where is the curious learner in you?  The back of milk carton? Left behind in a childhood sandbox? Find your inner curiosity and have some fun with it! Then return to leadership or the customer and calmly, professionally tell them the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. Share with them the information you have discovered. There is no need to create learning based on learning myths which  may ultimately do more harm than good.

My #PLN contribution to you, the curious learner, is this: Google Doc that has recorded reading suggestions by a number of great people.  To date there are 30 books listed, if that doesn’t get your curiosity bubbling, I don’t know what will!

It is an open document, so please add to it.  Let’s share! Let’s help each other grow and learn together and remember – Curiosity is the gateway to learning! 

success story

How has curiosity shaped your learning experience? How are you promoting curiosity within your learning Designs? Share your thoughts below.


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Shannon Tipton

Shannon Tipton

As Owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton is a skilled learning strategist, content developer and International speaker. Shannon has over 20 years of leadership experience developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures for training departments within organizations in North America, Europe and Korea.

Shannon works with people and organizations to develop learning solutions that brings actual business results. Recognized as bringing real-world expertise into the learning field, Shannon integrates technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration and increase learning connectivity.

As author of “Disruptive Learning” Shannon frequently speaking at conferences across North America and Europe and ranks as one of the top 100 L&D influencers on Twitter (@stipton).

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