Goodbye knowledge. Welcome curiosity.

curious child

I am a knowledge worker. I earn my fortune through providing knowledge to executives, leaders and trainers. All over Asia. Natural expectation is that I should be writing in support of knowledge. Sadly, this post is against knowledge! Am I crazy? No!

Here’s my math:

For over 20 years that I have been teaching in business schools or in executive education, I found that most of my contemporaries (teachers and trainers) used knowledge that they gained about 10, 15 years ago (when they were starting) to teach students and executives 10, 15 years later. It was obsoledge – obsolete knowledge. The worse thing was that with this obsoledge they fought knowledge battles everyday in faculty lounges and in classrooms and in training halls.

The other group I met was hardworking teachers – at schools and universities – who would keep updating both their knowledge and teaching methodology, but were paid very little. This was inexplicable. Knowledge should provide them corresponding remuneration. Why wasn’t it?

Finding no apparent explanation, I ran a global search and was stunned to find this revelation: Knowledge has an inverse relationship with money. Everywhere. i.e. the more you know the less money you are going to make. Take an example of two Harvard business graduates. One goes to a bank, the other starts teaching at Harvard. The banker is likely to make 4 to 5 times more money than his lecturer peer.

Since I was a knowledge worker and had an aspiration to make a few millions, if not billions, of legit money, this outcome (inverse knowledge-money relationship) was not acceptable to me. So I dig this question deeper: what was wrong with knowledge?

I found out that knowledge 1) gives you a false sense of arrival that you have the right answer (which is usually the first satisficing answer), 2) gives you a sense of superiority or arrogance (and you dismiss others’ opinion), 3) stops you from taking risks (since you already know the dangers involved), 4) brings ego to front (so you are shy of asking and exploring further).

In summary, you will keep doing what you always had being doing – perhaps with a bit of improvement. But no new risks, no major failures, no comfort zone stretched.

As they say that real success is outside your comfort zone, I took on me to find out what then if not knowledge. And I bumped into a behavior: curiosity. A child’s curiosity.

That is: ‘I know a bit about this; tell me more.’ ‘It appears that it may not succeed, let’s take a risk.’ ‘Apparently, this may not work, what other options do we have?’ This is the kind of language that a curious executive will employ.

A curious learner will be a continual learner. For everything, their first reaction will be to google it, ask around, open an atlas or a dictionary. Even when they have an apparent answer, they will keep searching for more options, more solutions. And once or twice, there may be an occasion where they kill a final solution just because a new window of curiosity has arisen. No shame associated with failure.

For the curious lot, everyday learning, ongoing learning, lifelong learning is a lifestyle. They will be open to learning in every moment, from any medium. They won’t dismiss a thing just because they saw it on a Facebook newsfeed, and they won’t be shy of quoting it in a hall full of academics.

In my global Train-The-Trainer workshops, now in 14th year, in 16+ Asian locations, I have stopped encouraging future trainers to be knowledgeable. I encourage them to embrace curiosity instead. I.e. if they want to be a commercial success.

Say goodbye to knowledge. Welcome curiosity.

Wali is the author of iBook, Great Training in 10 Simple Steps


  1. Curiosity is the real Man as one has to discover his being on earth. Curiosity leads to discovery.
    Curiosity introduce you to your own self. Curiosity takes you to the heights of a mountain or the depths of oceans .It helps you to unlock your hidden ,inner potential and you embrace a challenge after challenge and a ceaseless chain of information and realizationkeep you motivated for this journey. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Information—Knowledge and then wisdom is the usual cycle , and your elaboration of the same is much needed thing in current time.
    Sadly, though I have only less than two digit experience, I see there is so much Information level gap in the industry & business fraternity. Above all, fine lines of clear concepts are confused & jeopardized more than creating sense of curiosity & innovation.

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