TOP > Message > Researchers, be curious!

2007.05.14
"The power of insensitivity" is a phrase we hear often lately. It comes from the title of a book written by Junichi Watanabe. I just read an interview with him in a monthly magazine. In the interview, Mr. Watanabe explained in detail what he meant by the phrase, "the power of insensitivity." His elucidation made much sense to me.

It may not be directly related to the meaning attached to this popular phrase, but I sometimes say to the lab members, "When your ability is 100, for example, don't try to exert 120, but try instead to manage with 80 and leave the remaining 20 for room to breathe, for leeway in your thinking." You cannot keep going at 120 always; you'll collapse sooner or later. The effects such exertion have on researches is that a researcher tends to place himself/herself at the risk of being driven by impatience born of eagerness for the result, and end up not seeing the forest for the tree --- thus often defying one's own purpose of obtaining satisfactory results.

OK, it's not difficult to see that one cannot keep going at 120% --- but why not give 100% instead of 80%, you may ask. That's because you need to give your spirit of inquiry, your curiosity, some freedom to explore fields other than the one you specialize in. Let your interest also wonder about things that may not be directly related to the research at hand. Unexpected hints and inspirations sometimes do come when your mind is supple and open. Keep your perspective wide and encompassing; curiosity may kill the cat, but never a researcher.

So, I always tell young researchers this: "It may not be, but what if such thing was the case... Wouldn't that be interesting?" Include this type of thoughts as one of your hypotheses. And also, think aloud and involve others as well by way of discussion. Valuable hints often come from such discussion with other researchers; new ideas, unthought-of viewpoints may present themselves from active exchange of thoughts.

All this has a bearing on what I wrote last time in the column. Namely, it is important and valuable to have personal relationships with a variety of people. I would like young people to grow not only as scientific researchers, but also as socially mature people with comprehensive understanding of things.

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