At the age of 4 our curiosity peaks and we ask around 200-300 questions a day. When we grow older, and our brain develops further, we stop asking questions and start to give answers instead. At work, it’s even worse. We are hired to provide answers and solve problems, often with focus on the short term. Asking questions can be perceived as showing a certain level of vulnerability. And, as we don't want to be seen as incompetent, inattentive, or even too eager, we stop asking questions and being curious.
"I don’t have a special talent. I’m only passionately curious" - Albert Einstein
And then of course there’s Marie Curie, Salvador Dali and Amelia Earhart, these figureheads are just a handful of people who have changed the world by being passionately curious.
Curiosity is at the heart of discovery and growth and an essential part of who we are as human beings. So how can we reignite our curiosity?
Curiosity: Scary & Exciting
Curiosity is a strong desire to know or learn something new. However, when something piques our curiosity, our brain enters the curiosity state which can feel uncomfortable especially when we recognise we are lacking certain information. As we start to look for answers and find new information, our reward system kicks in by releasing dopamine.
Curiosity at work
Researchers have been studying curiosity for decades, and the work done by *Todd Kashdan and the team provides a great insight into how curiosity reveals itself in the workplace through 4 relevant dimensions:
Joyous exploration This is about taking pleasure in discovering something new, in engaging in a new experience, in learning and growing
In-depth investigation Recognising a gap in knowledge and dig deep to find a solution to a problem, not resting until the puzzle is complete
Openness to other people’s ideas Intentionally seeking out people with different approaches and perspectives to find new ideas
Embracing the unknown Exploring the new, the unfamiliar, while recognising it will be stressful but being ok with the anxiety and discomfort that comes with it
From our experience working with several clients, teams tend to fall short on embracing the unknown, which is a critical dimension to drive impact in the workplace.
Both research and top leaders’ opinion indicates the numerous benefits of curiosity in the workplace, linked to better performance when it comes to innovation, decision making, collaboration, resilience and employee satisfaction.
Curiosity is a foundation for an innovative and creative organizational culture. It supports a climate where employees feel comfortable with sharing ideas, experimenting, and creative thinking. It also drives individuals to explore various perspectives and solutions and encourages people to think outside the box and consider alternative approaches.
A curious mindset encourages employees to seek information and diverse viewpoints before making decisions. This leads to better-informed choices and reduces the likelihood of impulsive or poorly informed decisions that could negatively impact the organization.
Curiosity promotes active listening and a genuine interest in understanding others' perspectives. This fosters collaboration and effective communication, leading to a more cohesive and harmonious work environment.
People who are curious tend to be more adaptable to change and uncertainty. They are willing to explore and understand new technologies, methodologies, and market trends, enabling organizations to stay ahead and thrive in dynamic environments.
Encouraging curiosity signals to employees that their input, ideas, and questions are valued. This can enhance job satisfaction, employee morale, and retention rates within the organization.
So why is it that we are less curious in the workplace? What is holding us back?
The fear of making mistakes or failing can be a significant barrier to curiosity. People may avoid exploring new ideas or taking risks because they worry about negative outcomes or judgment from others.
Also, when we are complacent or too comfortable with existing routines and ways of doing things, we become less curious and lack the motivation to explore and learn.
At the same time, our busy schedules and overwhelming workloads can leave little space for curiosity. When individuals are constantly pressed for time, they may prioritize tasks over exploration and learning.
And when they have time, but employees feel constrained or are not given the freedom to explore their interests, they may lose motivation to be curious. Lack of encouragement or recognition for curiosity can lead to a suppressed environment.
Can curiosity be re-ignited in the workplace?
Yes, it can! Here’s an example of our experience working with a client keen to reignite curiosity amongst a group of leaders:
The Curiosity Movement
The first step was a deep dive into their company culture, to identify what was getting in the way of curiosity. Following this, we quantified the organization’s curiosity into curiosity profiles before launching the Curiosity Movement.
Firstly, we created the need to be more curious and the type of behavior that comes with it. Working with a tight group of leaders, our 'Curious Creators', we leveraged this deep understanding to identify quick-wins and big bets, tailored to the company practices, which were brought into practice during a 3-month period.
At the end of our life experiment and throughout our coaching, the results were astounding! Leaders reported a clear increase in their own curiosity, with clear personal and business impact. They felt more courageous to challenge and push their teams to dig deeper, while releasing a new positive source of energy. And they also recognized the impact it made on their business, by making bolder choices, being more customer centric, digging deeper for insights and better implementation of engagement plans.
Just a sample of feedback from the attendees:
“Curiosity is inspiring and liberating to myself and my team, it brought higher quality and sharper insight.”
“My team told me that I became a better manager and coach!”
“We are seeing the change in our responses from the agencies. The communication plans for next year are unlocking some true insight and growth opportunities.”
At Oxford, we are passionate about the importance of asking questions and being curious. It’s how we do our best work. We take a step back, challenge and get curious about what our clients are asking of us. It’s what makes the biggest difference in our work and we’re keen to pass on the ability to spark curiosity.
Are you curious how to reignite curiosity in your organization or team and to experience the benefits of this superpower first-hand?Let’s connect!
* Amended from source: Curiosity has comprehensive benefits in the workplace: Developing and T validating a multidimensional workplace curiosity scale in United States and German employees Todd B. Kashdana,⁎, Fallon R. Goodmana, David J. Disabatoa, Patrick E. McKnighta, Kerry Kelsoa, Carl Naughton