“The world is like a fertile field that’s waiting to be harvested.” –Edwin Land
If you have been around a young child for a period of time, you’ve probably heard them ask “how come?” more times than you can count. As a child, you probably asked that same question many times yourself. Perhaps, as is the experience of most, you were rebuffed with the response that “curiosity killed the cat,” or something to that effect.
Well it’s just not so.
To the contrary, it is true that curiosity built many successful businesses. Here are just two inspiring examples.
Recently, I read the fascinating story of Edwin Land, a Harvard dropout and the inventor of the Polaroid camera. On vacation with his family after World War II, he took photos of his three-year-old daughter. Like any typical three-year-old, she wanted to see them right away. Land’s explanation that he needed time to develop the film did not comfort her. “How come?” she must have asked her dad. But unlike the typical father, he did not leave it at “curiosity killed the cat.”
The little girl’s incessant curiosity inspired Land to develop a system of one-step photography. Result? The instant camera, which completely changed the way people thought about photography.
The second example is closer in space and time. I sat with Paul Kinuthia in a business forum a few days ago and listened as he narrated the captivating story of his rise from very humble beginnings to become one of Kenya’s billionaires.
Paul started his business with capital of only Kshs.3000 (less than US $40) about twenty years ago. Curious about the lack of locally produced shampoos, he used his capital to buy the ingredients necessary to make his first shampoo. As the only employee of his firm, Interconsummer Products, Paul hawked his unbranded shampoo from salon to salon. In time, the shampoo gained acceptance and the business grew. In 2009, about fourteen years after his curiosity first spurred him into action, the company crossed the Kshs.1 billion mark in sales revenues, joining the Business Daily’s Top 100 SMEs Club. And only last year, he sold one of his business units to the French cosmetics giant L’Oreal for an estimated Kshs.3 billion.
Reminiscing about our high school days during the forum, I recalled that Paul was always the curious, restless type. And it is his curiosity and the yearning for solutions that has propelled him to completely new horizons, just like Edwin Land before him.
These two gentlemen are a true inspiration to re-cultivate that God-given curious mind. Let the ideas flow!
©2014 David Waweru