We’re all born curious. If curiosity weren’t an essential element, nature wouldn’t have bothered. Unfortunately, our society’s design gives us negative reinforcement until our desire to ask questions is finally put to rest.

The good news is that inquisitiveness can be reignited. As a leader, you can greatly favor your organization by fostering a curiosity-friendly culture.

Today’s article is about why curiosity is important and how it can be reinstalled in your people.

Group works on Project after DiSC Styles

What exactly is Curiosity?

Todd B. Kashdan is one of the leading authorities on workplace curiosity. So let’s start with his definition. In a research study, Todd and his team defined curiosity as “The recognition, pursuit, and desire to explore novel, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous events.” They also went on to identify the five components of curiosity. A look at these parts will give you an even better idea of curiosity.

In simple words, curiosity is your drive to know more about anything that is unknown or lesser known to you.

Why is Curiosity Desirable in the Workplace?

The business world’s interest in curiosity has been increasing owing to its undeniable positive impact on business results.

The list is long so we’re giving you only the top benefits of having a curious workforce:

  • Innovation – Employees who are curious and keep on chasing new ideas are known to have a higher innovative output.
  • Development – Curious people are your low-maintenance performers. They need less hand-holding and take responsibility for their own development. Their inquisitiveness fuels their desire to learn more which is a clear predictor of workplace success.
  • Manage uncertainty – When faced with an unpredictable situation, people who are high in curiosity use this very trait to find their path. Instead of having panic attacks, they keep on digging for more knowledge until everything’s sorted out.
  • Reduce conflict – Curiosity in a person strengthens empathetic abilities. Empathy naturally lets one listen to and understand others’ ideas with patience. This open communication acts as a strong inhibitor of workplace conflict.
  • Performance – Curious employees are high performers as already proven countless times in the past. Curiosity significantly influences several success factors including a strong commitment to the organization, proactivity, employee engagement, empathy, and productivity.

How to Pick Out Curious Candidates?

In her landmark HBR article, Francesca Gino started her list of curiosity-fostering tips with “Hire for curiosity”. The first obvious step toward a curious workforce is making sure that you hire people who ask ‘Why’ questions.

Team works with Manager on Project

Here are a few tips to help you ensure that:

Check their questioning ability
If a candidate is nodding her head in response to everything you tell her, chances are she’s from the incurious bunch. Look for people who listen carefully, ask meaningful questions, and absorb the answers. You can also ask them to put forth any questions they might have listen for questions that show they are eager to learn more.

Gauge their problem-solving capabilities
Present your candidates with real-life situations from your organization and see how they respond. In their answers, look for tendencies to know more about the actual problem and their approach to finding the best solution. An incurious person will find an existing set of rules and blindly follow them to reach a solution. That’s a red flag.

Know more about their learning attitudes
Ask for examples from their lives where they took an initiative to learn something new without any formal obligations. Ask the Why, What, and How of their learning initiative. An inclination toward self-development clearly shows their curiosity.

Ask about their hobbies
How people spend the rest of their day tells a lot about their personality. Ask them what they normally do after work or what their hobbies are. A curious person will have interesting hobbies that involve continuous learning instead of brain-numbing repetitive ones.

How to Foster a Curiosity-Friendly Work Culture

Your organizational culture is your best bet when it comes to promoting curiosity throughout the organization. Subtle efforts to weave curiosity into the way things are done will gradually start to yield results.

Here are a few strategies to promote curiosity in your organization:

  • Encourage questions – Questions stoke the fire of curiosity. Leaders need to encourage questions from everyone. No matter how basic a question is, make sure to listen intently and respond patiently. This will have a trickle-down effect and over time, asking questions will become a norm.
  • Provide learning opportunities – If you want your people to be knowledge explorers, provide them with the vehicles of learning opportunities. Don’t ask the traditional question when a person from sales wants to attend a course on web design. These abstract learnings often lead to novel connections and spur innovation.
  • Reward curious thinking – Your employees indulge in behaviors that you as the leader encourage through performance appraisals and verbal recognitions. Add a section for curiosity in the standard performance management process. Also, start publicly praising people’s curiosity. You’ll soon see others following suit.
  • Be a role model – Leaders need to demonstrate curiosity-inducing behaviors themselves before they can expect others to follow them. That’s the best way to give a subliminal message to employees about what is expected of them.
  • Envision, align, and execute – As a leader, when you have a clear vision to foster curiosity, your next step should be to align all the stakeholders with your vision. When everyone’s on the same page, execute the curiosity-promoting strategies that you have developed. Using this 3-step VAE model, you can increase your chances of success. (Click here to see some great options for developing your leadership muscle.)

It doesn’t cost a fortune to make your organization curiosity-friendly. It only needs the top management’s commitment and some realignments in the recruitment and reward and recognition systems. But the results from this vision will go a long way in making your organization more competitive and a preferred brand for the top talent.

Let your inner-child curiosity loose. Encourage others to be curious. Before you know it, innovation and productivity will start to show through everything your people are doing.