I still remember a conversation I had with a science teacher at a science exhibition when I was in the 11th grade. This man talked with excitement and passion about electricity. He explained, in detail, how a three phase power supply system works and outlined the benefits of it for me. Although I didn’t understand everything he said, he aroused my curiosity. I came home and started trying to build a vehicle I had seen at the event. Since then, curiosity has become part of my nature.
The art of teaching is to awaken and then satisfy the natural curiosity of young minds.
Mahabharata, one of the greatest epics from India, tells the story of how two groups of cousins, the Kauravas and the Pandavas, who were being trained in the art of warfare. Of all of the students, one called Arjuna, who was a Pandava, developed a great love of archery because of his natural curiosity. He practiced this art with great concentration and perseverance until he was unquestionably the very best.
Acharya Drona, their guru, was very much pleased with Arjuna and treated him as the favorite. This caused a natural adolescence jealousy in the heart of some of the students, especially those in the Kauravas family. On boy, in particular, did not like Arjuna and other Pandavas and silently hatred towards the Pandavas took birth in his heart.
One day, this boy and one of his brothers openly criticized their guru for favor shown towards Arjuna, telling him that they too were skilled in archery. As a reply to their criticism, Acharya Drona arranged a test to decide who was the best archer.
Accordingly, a wooden bird was put on a branch of a distant tree, partly hidden by the foliage. A prominent artificial eye was painted on the wooden bird. The teacher called all his disciples and said, “Look my children, a bird is sitting on that far off tree. You have to hit the arrow exactly in its eye. Are you ready?”
Everyone nodded. First, the eldest Yudhisthira was invited to try his skill. He stretched his bow-string and was about to release the arrow when Dronacharya asked him a question, “O eldest son of Kunti, may I know what is visible to you at this point of time?”
Yudhisthira replied innocently, “Why, O Gurudev, I am seeing you, the tree, people around me, and the bird!”
Similar questions were put to Duryodhana, Bhima, Nakul, Sahadeva and the others. All had similar answers. Acharya told them to step aside as it was obvious that with such poor concentration they were sure to miss the target!
Lastly, it was Arjuna’s. He readied himself, his bow and arrow in perfect graceful harmony! The guru asked him, “O Arjuna, will you tell me what is being observed by you?” Arjuna replied, “Sir, at this point of time only the eye of the bird is visible to me.” When asked by the teacher whether he was able to see the bird, the tree, and people around, Arjuna replied that he saw the eye of the bird only. The teacher was pleased with Arjuna’s immense concentration and approach towards the art of archery. He then explained to the others that these yogic qualities made Arjuna his best disciple.
There is much more to this story, but suffice to say that Arjuna continued to distinguish himself and to make his guru proud. Through my career, I’ve come to believe that this story holds a lot of wisdom. Curiosity is a critical component to success, both for individuals and for organizations. It builds the ability to concentrate on what is important and to continue to strive for success.
The question, then, remains, how do we foster, encourage and support curiosity in our supply chain teams? How have you seen this attribute benefit the organization? Let us know in the comments section below.