Curiosity

Do you know what killed the cat?

It certainly wasn’t curiosity. Curiosity is a necessary means of achieving insights and key learnings, as it applies to research. But that doesn’t mean it should be limited to research settings.

I recently worked on a project looking at the use of sequential compression devices on hospital patients. These devices, used to prevent blood clots,  are put on patients' calves and compress every 30 seconds or so. To fully understand why there would be a compliance issue, I took the device home to sleep with it. I studied all the buttons on the device, read the manual, and slept a poor 6 hours of interrupted sleep. Ok, obviously these devices are not for everyone to sleep with at night, however they're important to wear and they get job done.

In my self experiment I learned that the device had a counter that wouldn't reset even if I turned the machine off. Brilliant! Just monitor how long a patient wears the device.  If they wear it long enough while they're in bed during the day, then maybe they won't have to wear it while they are trying to sleep.

During my observations, I started asking staff if they ever used the counter on the machine. "Counter? I didn't even know there was a counter." This was the answer time and time again. Why hadn't anyone even noticed the counter? Hadn't anyone even been the least bit curious to look at the numbers on the machine?

This isn't to say that these aren't curious people or that they are at fault by any means. It's meant to illustrate that all of us can become too routine, too busy, too complacent, and adverse to change. We stop seeing all the things right under our noses, and stop wondering; what exactly is that under our nose?

I think as we grow up we begin to lose our curiosity. In turn that loss of curiosity decreases our ability to observe all our surrounding details, weakens our association skills, and lessens the question;  why are we doing what we've always been doing?

Since my observations I've challenged myself to heightened my cat-like curiosity each day. I challenge the same to you. Be more curious and let me know what you find.

Molly McMahon is a Design Researcher at Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation.