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The Newsletter | Edition 073
Progress Report is dedicated to providing inspiration for action. In our Off-White Papers, we provide practical guidance on how to respond to our rapidly-changing world. This newsletter explores those topics in real-time, with information and action steps on how to make progress now.

But in this special newsletter series, The State Of, we dive a little deeper into the long-term work that comes after, in the places where we’re seeing new types of progress in action. From brand strategy to design, internet trends to sustainability, music to science, beauty to travel, and more.

And this time, our illustrations from Lucy Chen.


Curiosity is an innate human trait linked to the survival of our species. It’s driven many of our great thinkers, creators and innovators across history and culture, from Albert Einstein to Rosalind Franklin to Kendrick Lamar. But the way we live today actively discourages curiosity–everyday we’re inundated with an information overload that leaves us overwhelmed rather than inquiring for more. Without intention or realizing, we’re discouraging and diminishing this fundamental human trait and proven source of fuel for the evolution of our species. As a society we are facing a curiosity crisis that no one is acknowledging.


Curiosity is the instinct that drives our ability to discover new potentials and adapt when our environment changes. It is our impulse to seek out information, to see more than we have before, and explore novel possibilities that become the basis for innovation and evolution. And it is essential to our survival and evolution. In fact, theorists across the twentieth century categorized curiosity alongside fundamental survival instincts like hunger and thirst.

As children we are born curious––it’s what helps us learn, grow and thrive. Ironically, as we grow older and learn more, our curiosity slows. This is a natural progression that has always taken place. However, we’re now reaching a time where we have moved from what scientists call a natural “curiosity shutdown” to what I believe is a cultural curiosity crisis.

When I look at how we live today I see our curiosity being challenged in so many ways—the most obvious being the emotional overwhelm of our Information Age. While this is well-trodden territory, the knock-on effects are confounding. Some theorists describe it as the everyday abandonment of deep reading and resulting cognitive impatience, which feels to me like a step back in our cognitive development and evolution as a species. Some say it contributes to slowly degrading levels of comprehension and critical thinking across our society, including the cognitive performance required in voting booths. In addition, the dominance of standardized testing and memorization in school systems has our youth focused on rote practice rather than the pursuit of logical discoveries. Critics call it a system that rewards answering regardless of understanding. Even in the workplace, efficiency is often championed over the deep thinking that creates unexpected solutions and ironically more consistently successful results.

A seemingly pedestrian, yet highly visceral, demonstration of this was published as The Tyranny of Choice, in the journal Judgment and Decision Making, where psychologists Arne Roets, Barry Schwartz, and Yanjun Guan studied the effects of our proliferation of choice on happiness. The three prevailing emotions that came from mass quantities of information at our fingertips were 1) the burden of information-gathering, 2) a feeling of dissatisfaction with our selection, and 3) regret for our choices in sources. The authors claim that in the Western World our “excess of freedom has resulted in a dramatic increase in people's dissatisfaction with their lives and even in clinical depression.” Why delve deeply into a question or curiosity when we will only be left feeling worse off?

The irony is that curiosity is needed now more than ever. The everyday ability to learn and adapt, observe and ask questions, is not just important, but central to how we live today. Amidst our fourth industrial revolution, entering the metaverse and Web3, the only way to keep up with the times is to learn in real time. And when we look at industry beyond individuals, the emergence of tech giants like Netflix and Amazon, who exist off status quo disruption and innovation that changes our everyday, are proof that we’ve surpassed the era of efficiency as industry; rather, creativity-driven innovation is the new frontier. They are also evidence that individuals and organizations that can sustain curiosity can leapfrog those who don’t.

However, all curiosity is not proven equal. Scientists claim Epistemic curiosity––the type that drives learning and thinking—is made up of two types of underlying inquiry. The first is diverse curiosity, which tends to be abundant and encouraged in our world today. This is the curiosity that drives us through wormholes across the internet, creates wide topic-to-topic explorations, and distracts us when we open our smartphones. However, our lifestyles actively discourage specific curiosity. This is the kind of curiosity that aims at minimizing uncertainty and filling gaps in knowledge. It is the sustained, purposeful curiosity that drives idea generation and solutioning. Without both diverse and specific curiosity we lack the follow-through for true innovation.

Even beyond industry and innovation, curiosity is important to our personal happiness and satisfaction. Modern culture and our recent shared traumas have left us strained, in a time when agency and self-efficacy is more important than ever. It’s time to take back our energy and agency, to delve into the depths of our own curiosities and find new perspectives, discoveries, and truths. Somehow, in our wild world of modern day access, the agency to be truly and authentically ourselves has become our new definition of luxury. And yet, we should all have the ability to happily indulge in the curiosity that creates agency.


Be insistent with stoking curious energy—whether through conservation, encouragement, or provocation.


  • Find your space. Viktor Frankl, psychologist and Holocaust survivor once said, “Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.“ While on a day-to-day basis we can’t control the stimulus that hits us personally, we can become conscious and therefore gain more control of how we let it affect us, our energy, and our actions.
  • Reward specific curiosity. As innovators and creators of brands, we are uniquely able to influence the experiences we create for everyday people. Knowing the discontent our proliferation of choice has caused, we can actively work to reinforce specific curiosity and create satisfaction of choice by rewarding people with personal enjoyment and self-efficacy. Apps built off game theory like Duolingo and Headspace build confidence, interest, and curiosity through consistent positive reinforcement, not just in congratulations, but in knowledge and understanding. How can we create positive reinforcement that makes people want to use our products, and also promotes good habits?
  • Practice restraint. Probably most important as product and marketing folk is to actively try not to contribute to the problem. MIT scholar Sherry Turkle wrote, “We do not err as a society when we innovate, but when we ignore what we disrupt or diminish while innovating.” Consider the cons of your communications, innovation and proliferation, and try not to contribute to the burden, dissatisfaction, and regret of our Information Age.
  • Be (actually) unexpected. Sometimes it can feel like we’ve seen it all. Life is so expected. That childlike wonder is all but lost on us. Or is it? The unexpected can be thrilling when it truly does deliver a real surprise. Brands like Dr. Jart and Bored Ape Yacht Club thrive off creating that visceral reaction that makes us feel alive. Make no mistake, a shaking and awaking can get curious blood flowing, and make your brand the source of new momentum.

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