Cultivating Curiosity

Updated: Feb 2

Breakthroughs big and small start with someone asking "Why?" or "What if?" As a communicator, you play a critical role in how curiosity is positioned within the organization. Below are some benefits to curiosity - which keeps life and work interesting - followed by tips for communicators who want to reinforce messaging that encourages and enables employees to ask questions and make constructive suggestions to achieve better results.

According to Harvard Business Review, encouraging and enabling employees to be curious in your organization offers these benefits:

Better quality decision making as curious people are more likely to consider different alternatives and wider options rather than fall into the trap of confirmation bias, which is when someone looks for evidence to confirm their beliefs.

More innovation and positive change as constructive suggestions lead to experimentation, learning and better results. Without curiosity, we might do the same thing every day, expecting the same results, which stifles growth for individuals and the organization.

Better well-being. People who have the opportunity and are able to express curiosity in a productive way are less stressed, less aggressive, less defensive and feel more confident they can handle difficult situations.

Better performance. Curiosity is strongly correlated with competence, better performance and ease adapting to changing market environments and new roles.

As a communicator, here's how you can bring out employees' curiosity:

Confirm with leadership that curiosity - or some version of the word - is a good fit for what the company needs to accomplish short and long term. Ask for examples of how curiosity has led to a major positive improvement and how all employees can express their curiosity on a daily basis. Work with leadership and managers to help employees understand that incremental small changes are also important.

Audit existing business and cultural initiatives to understand where and how curiosity is currently measured. Look for areas where reinforcing or adding language regarding curiosity feels organic and authentic. The absence of language about curiosity might signal to employees that they shouldn't ask questions. It also might lead managers to be reluctant to field questions.

Advise key stakeholders and project managers to build in time for employee input for major projects and on a daily basis.

  • For major rollouts, such as implementing technology on plant floors companywide, group meetings where information is presented so that employees have the opportunity to ask questions and provide input are appropriate. Frontline workers have a unique perspective about the impact of changes and how to streamline them. Enabling curiosity at the beginning of a process helps identify barriers to success and lowers resistance to changes

  • On a daily basis, such as during team meetings, develop a list of curiosity questions that managers can ask teams to get the ball rolling. Phrase the questions for high impact. For instance, asking an employee what they are curious about today generally gets a better response then simply asking employees what they are going to do that day.

Create manager resources to help them lead constructive brainstorming.

  • Address " curiosity" pain points with managers. Managers sometimes don't take the time to talk things through because they are focused on finishing work efficiently and fast. However, research shows that exploration leads to better decision-making as alternative solutions are considered during dialogue.

  • Provide managers with training on how to hold productive brainstorming and develop a way of recognizing employees, managers and teams who are making positive changes by asking questions and figuring things out.