What is curiosity? If you are wondering about the answer and want to find out, you are being curious. Curiosity is the urge to know more, to find out what’s around the corner, to know what makes something tick. Children are curious by nature, they ask why, how, what and when with unfailing regularity and sometimes even drive us to seek out the answers.
For thousands of generations curiosity led humans to make new discoveries and invent new things. Questions like, what will happen if I eat the fruit from this tree? Or will I fall of the earth if I go beyond the horizon? Have been the start of our amazing culinary heritage, world travel, and the discovery of new ways of life.
Our ancestors were curious, our children continue to be curious, but somewhere along the line we as adults, lost interest in being curious. Maybe it can be blamed on a broken system which told us to accept the status quo and not ask questions. The reason we lost curiosity is not important, what matters is that we get it back.
Why curiosity, why now?
We live in a time when the world is changing faster than it ever has. Change is only possible when we get curious about the things around us and ask how we too can stay relevant. At an organisational level curiosity is more important than ever. What worked for a company one year might not work again the next.
New competitors enter the market, trends change, the target audience changes, new technologies are developed, and information consumption is constantly evolving. We can no longer sit on our laurels of the last quarter thinking that the same actions will continue to propel us forward despite the changes happening all around.
How do you foster an attitude of curiosity?
These four practices can help develop a curious work culture and make the workplace a space of exploration, innovation and discovery.
Be the curious leader: No memo, no pep talk, and no one on one session could ever be as effective as leading by example. Leaders who are not afraid to display curiosity encourage their teams to be curious as well. When you ask your employees questions like what can be done to make improvements in the workplace? You are inspiring them to ask questions of their own, think outside the box and get creative with their ideas.
Hire naturally curious people: Google’s policy is that they run the company on questions not on answers. In their message to interested candidates Google includes the line’ ‘If you’re looking for a place that values your curiosity, passion, and desire to learn….’ Right at the onset Google looks for individuals that are curious by nature. Naturally curious people are not blinded by the confines of their own opinions, they are interested in what others have to offer and a new point of view.
Encourage pursuing interests: Encouraging and even providing resources for employees to pursue their interests, not only increases their curiosity but also puts them in a learning mindset. By focusing on learning goals instead of performance goals, employees are not held back from exploring new possibilities and are not afraid to make mistakes along the way.
Have question days: Brainstorming sessions have been the birthplace of some extremely innovative solutions. Brian Chesky, the founder of Airbnb would actually visit the homes of their customers and ask them how the system could be improved. It was from one of these brainstorming sessions with a property owner that the idea to have renters create profiles was born. Similarly, every company should have brainstorming sessions at regular intervals where employees are required to ask questions like how, why and what if.
The power of curiosity is often underestimated in organisations. When employees are curious, they work better as a team and are open to listening to what their teammates have to say. A curious employee will ask, “What if we tried doing it this way?” And from that question a new method can be born that is more efficient and requires less effort. Curiosity in the workplace is the need of the hour and a curious work culture is the only way a business will be able to keep up with the changing times.