Homeschool Exercise: Curiosity

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Written By Brad Dennis, Ph.D.

(Originally published at Gab.)

A key trait that many entrepreneurs share is curiosity. Many don’t realize this, but curiosity can be nurtured in a person. This next exercise is designed to cultivate a sense of curiosity in your child grounded in the entrepreneurial context of value creation. In this exercise, your children will be challenged to think about a particular product from three perspectives. This exercise can be done in as little as 10 minutes.


Task #1: Choose a small but common household item for the exercise. It could be anything like a spoon, a salt shaker, or a bottle brush. Something your kids could hold and manipulate is helpful for the first time they do this exercise. Please share with your kids how when companies make this product, they have a particular customer in mind who they are making these for. Companies are trying to solve a specific problem for their customer. Ask your kids to brainstorm who was the company’s ideal customer and what problems they were trying to solve for them. Spend enough time on this task to let the ideas peter out. This will take a few minutes.

Notes for Parents:
Begin by reminding your kids of the rules for brainstorming:
– Defer judgment (no one says if an idea is good or bad)
– Focus on quantity over quality
– Crazy ideas are welcome
– Encourage them to build upon each other’s ideas

This type of thinking is new to your children, so you should take the lead in the brainstorming to help generate ideas. For example, suppose you chose a travel mug. In that case, you could describe how this product was designed for people on the go who don’t want their drinks spilled and how it really solves the problem of taking your drink with you. If it’s high quality, you could suggest they made it for someone with a decent income. After a few ideas, they will probably be able to start contributing their own.

Task #2: Take the same item and ask them who this product was NOT made for, i.e., what type of person WOULDN’T buy it. This one’s a little trickier, but it can be pretty fun once the ball gets rolling. Continuing with the travel mug idea, you could prime them with easy ones like “people who don’t travel” or silly ones like “people who don’t have hands,” which can be used for many things.

Notes for Parents:
This task can be challenging, and you should encourage your kids to get creative. This task should be over in about 5 minutes. You’ll have a sense of when the ideas have dried up, and then you should move on to the final prompt.

Task #3: The final prompt is to have them think about why someone might buy this product for something other than its intended purpose. For example, “For what reasons might someone buy this travel mug other than to carry their drink without spilling.”

Notes for Parents:
Be prepared to try another product. This prompt may lead to nothing, as it can be challenging. When I ran this exercise with my children, we pivoted to a salt shaker from a travel mug. The only thing we could come up with was for a burglar to hide their stolen diamonds (ice, get it?).

This type of exercise can be made into an impromptu game. You can prompt your kids anytime with a question like “Who do you think that was made for?”. This could be a fun way to reinforce the exercise once they’ve gotten some practice and have developed a little fluency with this dimension of curiosity. You could also use it to practice empathy. After I had finished our exercise, I mentioned to my kids that there really are people with handicaps, like not having hands. I asked them to imagine using the salt shaker or travel mug with their hands tied behind their backs. You could see their eyes widen. They had never considered something like that before. I continued with some more empathy-building examples I had seen. I had seen some professors have their students complete tasks wearing glasses smeared with vaseline so they could know what it was like for someone with limited sight. Or another professor had their students go to class in wheelchairs or crutches. It was a nice bonus that I wasn’t expecting from the exercise.

I hope your kids enjoy this exercise and welcome any feedback or suggestions.

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