Creativity, the intrinsic motivation to learn and explore, is something we’re all born with. When we’re children, we acknowledge the things we don’t know, and we are compelled to fill that information gap.
As we get older that curiosity starts to diminish. We ask fewer questions, spend less time educating ourselves, and are often encouraged, culturally, to stick with and concentrate on what we already know.
And that’s a problem, because curiosity is good for business. Inventors and entrepreneurs still have the curiosity bug that helps them find new solutions, but most employees have lost it.
It’s time to get curiosity back; encouraging curiosity in your teams will help them to enjoy their work more, find better solutions to problems, and deliver a better service to your customers.
Four Business Benefits of Curiosity
There are many benefits to building curiosity in the workplace, all of which, when harnessed appropriately, can benefit the profitability of your business:
1. Curious Employees Are Better Team Players
Curiosity is fantastic for building relationships. Studies show that an individual’s level of curiosity influences how they build relationships with the people they meet. It was found that curious individuals built a stronger friendship with strangers far quicker than those who lacked curiosity did. The curious individuals had better communication, created rapport easier, and got to know each other faster.
Could curiosity be the key to team building you’ve been looking for?
2. Curious Employees Learn Faster and Retain Information Better
Scientific research shows us that people find it easier to learn about topics they find interesting. The team found that curious people retained more information both immediately and in delayed memory tests.
This has obvious applications for enabling employees to learn more and get better at their job quicker. Plus, curious employees are more likely to engage in self-directed learning, rather than having to have it forced upon them in a format they may not enjoy.
3. Curiosity is Linked to Creativity and Innovation
One of curiosity’s biggest impacts on business is the way it helps us to create new creative solutions to existing business problems. Invention, innovation and problem-solving all start with curiosity: “would this work?”
Creating curiosity can help your business find new and interesting ways to create value for your customers and find solutions to previously insurmountable problems. By giving employees the freedom and desire to stop working in the business and start working on it, you permit them to create value beyond their basic job requirements.
4. Curious Employees Are Happier
In Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life, Dr. Todd Kashdan sets out his thesis that curiosity is a vital ingredient for happiness. Employees who investigate and explore new possibilities in areas that interest them will enjoy their work more.
Happy employees can only be a good thing! And studies have found that it could have a noticeable effect on the bottom line: studies found happy employees are 12% more productive.
How to Boost Curiosity In Your Workplace
As we’ve seen, curious employees are happier, more creative, learn faster, and make better teams. No wonder so many businesses say they want to improve the curiosity of their teams!
Unfortunately, the reality doesn’t always match that ambition. The Harvard Business Review reports that, intentionally or not, most leaders discourage curiosity: 70% of survey respondents reported facing barriers to asking questions about the status quo.
So how can businesses improve curiosity in the workplace? Here are a few ideas:
Learn to Celebrate Constructive Failure
Curiosity and creativity can only happen when businesses create a safe space for employees to explore new ideas. Too often, businesses discourage new ideas by putting too much focus on results. When this happens, most employees would rather dampen their curiosity and carry on as normal, rather than rock the boat. Eventually, that curiosity is lost altogether.
This direction comes from the top: leaders discourage curiosity because they fear it will slow down existing processes, create disagreements, or make it harder to manage if everyone starts going in their own direction. You’ll probably find this is only true in the most extreme of cases.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Many questions we ask focus on a very narrow problem, which naturally limits the range of answers employees can give.
In many scenarios, this is useful, but sometimes it pays to ask more open-ended questions: “How can we serve our customers better?” or “What new features, services, or products could we add?”
You might be pleasantly surprised with what your teams come up with when given the time and space to think creatively about these questions. Get into the habit of asking these open questions regularly to fuel creativity in your workforce.
Stop Worrying About Efficiency
There, we said it. We all want to improve efficiency, but a blinkered approach gets businesses nowhere. Efficiency is more than just getting employees to deliver the same actions and results faster and with less time; it’s about finding new approaches and processes.
This can only happen when employees are given the time and space to think for themselves. Give them the opportunity to explore things that interest them and invest their time in learning new business skills.