Cultivating a culture of curiosity to enhance organizational performance
We all have experienced how the level of curiosity keeps diminishing with every added year in an individual’s lifespan. The degree of being curious gradually subsides as we grow up and our thoughts get influenced and shaped by society at large. However, what we forget is that it is this curious mind that fuels imagination and gives rise to discoveries and inventions. Steve Jobs would not have been what we know him today had his curiosity for typefaces not led him to attend a seemingly assumed useless class on typography. His development of design sensibility became an essential part of Apple computers and Apple’s core differentiator in the marketplace. It is safe to say that curiosity is the key to the discovery of any next breakthrough idea.
Curiosity fuels imagination, creative work and innovation. It is not just about solving problems. Instead it is about exploration and expansion of thoughts and ideas. Alan Sentman, Ph.D. Senior Scientist says “Science as a field is entirely based on curiosity. Science at its basic core is a framework of processes to observe ‘everything’ with a goal of understanding how it works.”
Then, why should the corporate world remain deprived of this skill which surely can be manifested in innumerous forms for propelling a healthy organizational climate of growth?
In fact, it is quite often seen that organizations work hard to attract people with inquisitive mindsets and then they stick them in an environment in which curiosity is discouraged.
Creating a culture starts with seeing the individuals beyond job titles to identify what unique gifts they can bring to the table. Let us dig deeper into what all can be done to cultivate a culture of curiosity that will enhance the organization’s performance as a whole.
Promote all kinds of learning for your employees
Generally all companies L&D strategies are related to solely professional development of employees. There are budgets sanctioned for professional development plans (PDPs) that are must to exhaust in order to be eligible for performance appraisal cycle. Much emphasis is given to PDPs by ignoring the aspect of personal development of an individual which actually forms the base of an individual. The rationale for personal development has a direct consequence to the increased level of curiosity. Hence, organizations must allow their people to feel free to request support for any kind of learning they want. Such openness surely pays off in work related future goals. Imagine an employee – a project manager, who had once requested from his training budget to pay for a portion of his photography classes. Now he runs the branding programs of the company by taking an additional responsibility as the de facto in-house photographer. His new interest and genuine talent resulted in saving company’s huge cost that could have been spent on hiring an outside photographer. And alongside, the by-product of such culture is increased motivation, loyalty, retention and a great learning ecosystem in all true sense.
Encourage Inquiry and questions for curious leaders
‘Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers’ says Voltaire - the French enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher. Invoke inquiry in people’s mind and style of working. Let them write agendas in form of questions like ‘How should we prioritize these projects?’ or ‘What models of engagement might we offer the client?’ Encourage curious questioning and logical reasoning between teams. Promote a culture where people are not scared or apprehensive to speak up. Let them ask curious questions, share ideas and contribute. And as a result, your company will produce more productive meetings among a highly energizing team. In fact, team meetings must be rooted in scientific inquiry and research. Let them plan for projects with iteration and experimentation with an agenda to explore new paths. Invoke thoughts that may not be stereotyped and challenge their assumptions. Remember, work is more rewarding when curiosity and discovery are embedded in it.
Empower leaders to create a culture of curiosity
Many great leaders feel that it is their curiosity that constantly drives them to lookout for something new and different, in ways that they can show up and share their work with larger group of people. There is no doubt about its essence as every product innovation created has resulted from people asking questions or looking at something differently. It is hence imperative for leaders to power curious individuals and organizations to measure, benchmark, and act on the opinions that drive success by recognizing curiosity at the heart of everything their employees do. Remember what Albert Einstein had said “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
Take time to reflect on what kind of curious culture does your organization dwell on. Is curiosity encouraged in your organization? Do you crush other people’s curiosity with comments like, ‘We have always done it that way’ or ‘this will never work!’ Remember it is curiosity that will create the next Google or Microsoft.