In a wide-ranging survey by Harvard, only 24 percent of employees reported feeling curious in their jobs, and about 70 percent said they face barriers to asking more questions at work.
Yet new studies show cultivating curiosity at work leads to:
- fewer decision-making errors
- innovation, positive changes and workplace improvements
- a more solution-oriented workforce
- reduced group conflict
- open communication
Leaders and employees alike understand that curiosity creates positive outcomes for companies, from innovative problem-solving to a lack of pigeonholing.
Yet executives’ actions often tell a different story.
What are the barriers that get in the way of cultivating curiosity?
Leaders don’t place value on exploration.
Execs often shy away from encouraging curiosity because they believe the company would be harder to manage if people were allowed to explore their own interests.
That’s understandable: Exploration often involves questioning the status quo and doesn’t always produce useful information. But it also means not settling for the first possible solution—often yielding better solutions!
Exploration tends to be slower (at first), and leaders are impatient.
When people are under pressure to complete their work quickly, they are left with little time to ask questions about broad processes or overall goals.
So what are the best ways to foster curiosity in the workplace?
Here are five ideas you can implement tomorrow:
1. Explore team dynamics by starting with a team charter, a document that outlines the direction and boundaries of a team
A team charter encourages exploration, understanding and buy-in, and ensures a team’s culture is spot-on.
“The best organizations create the right project teams around diverse interests, skills, strengths and past experiences, and tweak these teams and the culture behind them as needed,” writes Psychology Today.
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2. Establish a question-based culture, and encourage your team to do the same.
“When ideas are in their infancy, search for what is interesting and ask questions,” writes Psychology Today.
“They can be tough questions, as long as they arise from the desire to gain knowledge (curiosity) as opposed to the need to exert control or dominance (power), or the need to impress others with your ability to outsmart others (social status).”
3. Together as a group, determine your team’s end goal, then trust your employees to take you there.
“If leaders want good work, they should give employees rules and maps,” writes Psychology Today. “If leaders want great work, they should give employees an idea of what is of interest, a few constraints, and then let employees uncover the strategies and tactics that work best.”
“Trust the people that you hired and trained—and give them autonomy.”
4. Get a hobby… or two.
A recent San Francisco State University study of workers found that those who engaged in “creative pursuits” — anything from playing video games to writing short stories — had improved job performance and specifically out-performed their hobby-less coworkers when it came to creative problem-solving.
One way? Show and tell, a la elementary school.
“In my own company, we’ve found a balance by encouraging employees to bring their personal passions into the office with a series of informative show and tells,” writes Zohar Dayan, Co-Founder & CEO of Wibbitz. “In the past, we’ve had employees give presentations as varied as a tutorial on how to tie nautical knots to a (somewhat murky) recollection of variations in whiskey based on a recent trip to Ireland.”
5. Create spaces — either digital or in-person — for employees on different teams to communicate and interact.
One key to creating an environment of curiosity is providing employees with exposure to as many different ideas as possible through cross-team communication.
One way to build this type of communication across the company is by physically opening up the office, allowing people to interact with parts of the organization they may not normally come into direct contact with.
If this open-floor plan isn’t feasible, businesses can can do this digitally via Slack, a free tool which allows for workplace bonding and discussion across workplace boundaries and even physical distances.
As you think about your plans — both at work and at home — for this year, I invite you to learn more about Graymake, LLC and the opportunities we have available for you and your employees. To set up a 30-minute phone chat with a member of our team, sign up here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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