In my independent work, I tend to work with my “big questions” on background, and my curiosity on foreground.
The big questions are the hard problems that, if solved, would be quite meaningful for the field and its contribution. But I work with curiosity on foreground. Often, the big questions are the ones that remain because hammering away at them directly hasn’t landed the needed answers. Letting curiosity take the reins puts some noise into the system. It’s Feynman’s spinning plates that ultimately won his Nobel. Curiosity has the ability to lead one to important discoveries on paths that otherwise seem insignificant. It finds both problems and ways of solving them. It surfaces the principles we hold close which stand in contrast to the things around us. Working with the big questions on background and the mind’s unfettered curiosity on foreground, I can help find new paths to new results.