by Will King
Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ was a world-wide phenomenon, essentially developed out of his curiosity for people, events, ‘secret organisations’ and more surrounding Leonardo da Vinci.
Well, for someone born hundreds of years ago, he had an almost prescient way of predicting the future, coming up with ideas and concepts for physical products which exist now. But, why did he think like he did? Well, like me (and I’m in NO WAY comparing myself with da Vinci), he probably went around thinking “why do things do what they do, why are things are the way they are?” History doesn’t say whether or not he owned a cat, although there is possibly an inkling he had a fondness for them, one of his proverbs being ‘the smallest feline is a masterpiece’ but where cats are concerned, they figure strongly in the field of curiosity, after all, ‘curiosity killed the cat’ is often heard, but less frequently, the second part of this proverb ‘but satisfaction brought it back’.
Curiosity killed the cat
Curiosity, defined as ‘the strong desire to learn or know something’ must surely be one of the foundations of human ascendance amongst Earth’s living things. After all, when you are blessed with intelligence, surely you wish to develop that knowledge base – to further advance your standing in society, whether commercially, altruistically or to simply work out how to get to where you want to be. Yet, curiosity is often resisted as it involves you finding out stuff about something (or someone) else. Journalists are of course naturally curious creatures, they need to be to flesh out an interesting story or revelation of facts that lead to a greater understanding of something or somebody. However, people don’t particularly like curious people, particularly if they’re on the end of their probing.
Although young people are mentally wired to be constantly learning, they are sometimes fobbed off by people who neither have the time, or inclination to answer their questions. This knowledge transfer, may be seen as ‘giving something away’ of advantage to the curious inquisitor, especially people with the curiosity trait, like da Vinci.
Satisfaction brought it back
So, forget that curiosity ‘killed the cat’ and remember ‘satisfaction brought it back’, after finding out what it was searching for.
Let’s take a look at a few examples, in the inventor/entrepreneur space, where curiosity led to the creation of amazing enterprises and products.
“Why does a sycamore spin slowly to the ground?” da Vinci certainly asked himself. He knew (of course) of the Archimedes screw (which is essentially a series of sycamores rotating, which can move water up hill) and (where his genius kicked in) knew air had a ‘mass’ (lighter than water of course) and therefore could probably ‘move air’ in a controlled way. So, his early drawings of an ‘Archimedes screw helicopter’ floating to the ground (or being pedaled furiously by someone spinning the screw fast enough to rapidly displace air) made sense – and of course now, are used on helicopters, and more recently, drones, like Amazon are mooting using to make ‘Drone Deliveries’!
“Why should a vacuum lose suction?” James Dyson asked himself in the development of the Dyson bag-less cleaner? Surely, it should perform 100% of the time, after all, you don’t have a car that travels slower as it runs out of petrol, do you? That led him to develop cyclonic technology (think of a cyclone or tornado), with low pressure on the inside, throwing out everything it comes into contact with outwards – dirt, debris and much more – that’s essentially how a Dyson works. Spinning air to remove detritus into a plastic container, which never blocks the ‘sucking’ action. Clever. That’s why he’s worth over £1Bn!
‘Why shave with a foam?’ was one of my light bulb moments at King of Shaves. Researching canned shaving foams, I found out that they’d originally been developed as a foaming furniture polish by SC Johnson in the fifties and sixties. Only when people realised that the foam looked like what the barber ended up with using soap and a brush, but in a more convenient ‘squirt out, massage in’ way, did aerosol foams become popular. But, they didn’t lubricate particularly well, whereas (being a mechanical engineer), I knew oil lubricated really well, so in 1993 I developed a natural blend of oils, that you shaved with. You could see where you were shaving (no white foam or mess), it was great to travel with, and best of all, as it lubricated so well, it helped prevent razor burn. Hundreds of millions of shaving oil shaves later… You can see the value of being curious, can’t you?!
I’m curious about many things.
I was curious about why toothbrush heads bent (made with a rubber hinge) and pushed ‘back’ against the teeth to give a better clean. So, with the design of our original Azor in 2003, instead of using a ‘mechanical’ hinge to allow the razor head to follow facial contours, we used a polymer and plastic ‘living hinge’ to allow it to flex and always ‘push closer’ onto the skin, to deliver a closer shave. Patented that, called it ‘Bendology Technology’ and it’s helped bring us closer to developing a razor better than that of our competitors. Take a look at my BatYacht concept www.batyacht.com – and read the article. You’ll note a lot of curious thinking there!
Why is the sky blue? Why are white vans popular with tradesmen? Why did it take one man (Steve Jobs) to completely redefine the smartphone industry (decimating billion pound ‘mechanical’ brands in the process) and why wasn’t the ‘app’ industry seen before the creation of the iPhone?
Why aren’t you more curious about things?
Maybe you are! This is why I’ve written this brief discourse. To exhort you, to encourage you, to egg you on, to motivate you and to tell you that ‘curiosity didn’t kill the cat, indeed, it might get you the cream!’ Question why things are. Why products work the way they work. Trevor Baylis did – and created the clockwork radio, used to such great effect across Africa in the 1990’s, helping spread awareness of news and events.
Long may curiosity continue. In early 2014, we’ll debut a new razor which will make all existing razors look ‘analogue’ in a ‘digital’ world. This innovation has come from two fields widely removed from shaving and builds on my original curiosity to make a better razor. I’m curious to know what will come out of that!
So, be curious. Remember, ‘knowledge (like cash) is king’ and you’ll never find out if you don’t ask ‘why.’ No one can answer ‘No’ to a question starting ‘why,’ it’s called an open ended question, loved by interviewers, hated by interviewees. Find out how you can pose more open ended questions, so you never have to take a ‘No’ for an answer.
It’s only a google away
Founder, CEO The King of Shaves Company and designer of BatYacht www.batyacht.com