Here I am human, here I may be curious!

Digitalization is driving human labor out of the value chain. It only continues what robots and automation have begun long before. You can feel threatened by this, but you can also see it as an opportunity. Digitalization is bringing unique human abilities and thus the human factor beyond mere labor back into the spotlight. In this sense: stay curious!

We were all curious once. We were born that way. My children constantly ask why and question everything and everyone. And that’s a good thing. It would be even better if we didn’t lose this curiosity in the course of time or through education: Don’t always ask so much!

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. 

Albert Einstein

School reinforces this tendency. Instead of using and fostering innate curiosity, it is usually a matter of first imparting factual knowledge and skills and then testing them. If the school were geared towards curiosity, the pupils would ask the questions and work out the answers together with the teachers. In most cases, however, it is the other way round: the teachers ask questions and the pupils give the answers on the basis of the knowledge they have learnt.

The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.


The school system, however, only follows the principle of supply and demand. For many decades the economy needed and demanded standardized workers according to job descriptions and “asking stupid questions” was not part of it. On the contrary, open-minded thinkers only disturb the process. Even if fortunately not so drastically phrased in many places the “simple” workers were basically subject to Vilos Cohaagen’s statement in the film Total Recall: “Who told you to THINK? I don’t give you enough information to THINK! You do as you’re told, THAT’S WHAT YOU DO!”

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.

Shunryu Suzuki

Thus socialized and educated, the fear of automation, digitization and artificial intelligence is immediately explained. Of course, people who have been reduced to a gear in an organization designed as machine are now quite rightly afraid that an algorithm will take over this function. But this is also the chance that the human being will be able to unfold more humane in the company instead of just being employed as a standardized worker: Here I am human, here I may be curious!

Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.

Richard Feynmann

Perhaps machines and computers will eventually be able to find better answers and solve problems better than humans, but with their innate curiosity only humans can ask the right questions. It is precisely this constant questioning that is the decisive human core competence in a world that is changing ever faster. We now “only” have to restructure and lead organizations in such a way that this curiosity can develop sufficiently.

Something is wrong if workers do not look around each day, find things that are tedious or boring, and then rewrite the procedures. Even last month’s manual should be out of date.

Taiichi Ōno

Exactly this empowerment of the “simple” workers to curious questioning was and is an essential pillar of the Toyota Production System, which was substantially shaped and developed by Taiichi Ohno. Toyota thus succeeded in significantly increasing productivity and was not only able to catch up with the American competition from Detroit, but to outperform it. At that time, using the curiosity of the people in the organization was a decisive competitive advantage and will be even more so in the course of digitalization. Stay curious!

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