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10 ways to build a culture of curiosity

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The very curiosity that kills the cat may actually be great for your company – about nine in 10 employees (88%) agree the more curious ones among them are the ones most likely to nurture an idea to life at the workplace.

Their curiosity doesn’t just benefit the organisation, but them as well – as more than half believe a curious person is more likely to be promoted (61%) and earn a high salary (52%).

New research on curiosity at work found four dimensions to measure an employee’s Curiosity Index – inquisitiveness (e.g., freely asking questions); creativity (e.g., willingness to challenge the status quo); distress tolerance (e.g., interested in taking risks to discover new things); and, openness (e.g., embracing own and others’ new ideas).

Employees with a high Curiosity Index score were much more likely to say they are responsible for frequently generating new ideas (90%), than those with low Curiosity Index scores (38%).

Unfortunately, just one in four employees described themselves as curious, with 60% admitting their workplace presents barriers to practising curiosity, in the study of more than 2,000 American workers by Harris Poll on behalf of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.

More than two in three workers (66%) said they faced barriers to asking more questions at work.

So, how can you, as a manager, be more supportive of cultivating curiosity in employees? The report found 10 qualities of curious companies (as agreed upon by a majority of employees):

1. Managers accept anxiety at possibility of failure – 73%
2. Managers allow experimentation with original ways to get my work done – 72%
3. Leaders open to hearing and sharing bad news – 71%
4. Access to interesting/bright people to learn from them – 70%
5. Courage to move in directions different from the competition – 66%
6. Leaders view problems from multiple perspectives – 65%
7. Leaders accept all viewpoints, including dissenting ones – 61%
8. I would describe leaders as imaginative – 61%
9. Prepares people to handle unexpected changes – 60%
10. Leaders prefer new and unfamiliar ideas – 54%

Psychology professor Dr. Todd Kashdan, who partnered with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in this report, commented: “When curiosity is supported in the workplace, employees feel energized, engaged and committed, and this helps drive innovation.”

“To create a culture of curiosity, leaders need to find ways to encourage employees to accept and harness the perfectly normal feelings of anxiety and excitement when confronting the unknown.”

Moral of the story? Bosses (and cats), don’t worry – curiosity won’t kill your employees. In fact, it will make them 90% more likely to generate new ideas frequently.

The State of Curiosity survey

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