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May 24, 2011

Testing, Learning and Curiosity

by aliciaarnold
Rocco the beaver in studio

Image via Wikipedia

There’s a lot of talk in the business world about the importance of testing and learning. When it comes to web site design, we typically create prototypes to help clients understand user flows, graphical elements, and user interactions. Many times, we take these prototypes out to end users to test and get feedback. This aspect of testing and learning helps to uncover opportunities, understand what is/isn’t working, confirm hypotheses, and find ways of improving outcomes. Though this example was couched in a business context, we all have the innate ability for testing and learning. In fact, testing and learning begins as infants.

As infants, the interactions and experiences we have help to form the structure of our minds. While heredity plays a role in determining the number of brain cells or neurons we have, and the initial arrangement, our experiences shape the connections among neurons. Synapses are what connect neurons to one another. Over time the connections that are used get stronger and stronger, forming pathways. As we age, these pathways become well-worn and we get set in our ways. One method for forming new pathways is to tap into curiosity, testing and learning. Creating new hypotheses helps to promote new connections and forge new pathways.

Recently, my sons tapped into curiosity and explored testing and learning. Getting into their young minds provides food for thought on ways to look at the world.

My oldest son hypothesized that Grandma was missing a lens on her glasses. To test, he lifted his finger and poked Grandma in the eye. As it turns out, Grandma was indeed missing a lens. She lost it on a shopping trip and was awaiting a refill on her eyeglass prescription. While I don’t condone poking grandmothers in the eye (luckily, my son had a gentle touch), it was great to see curiosity at play. Following through on hunches and digging deeper are great ways to test and learn.

Now for my younger son. He came running down the stairs the other morning and gleefully told my husband he was going to let his two front teeth grow out like a beaver. My son proceeded to run around the house making beaver noises, “Nya, nya, nya, nya.”

In a surprise twist, my husband replied, “That’s great.”

Having a strong imagination leads to new ideas and new futures. I wonder what new things my little one might invent. LOL!

Testing, learning and curiosity – a great way to invite new thinking.

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