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Curiosity is a critical element for surviving – and thriving – in any environment.

Albert Einstein famously advised a young student “the important thing is to not stop questioning…never lose a holy curiosity.”

The innate desire to seek new information and experiences, and explore new possibilities, is what propels daily innovation and invention. It’s the instinct to better understand situations, problems, and environments, and make them better.

Francesca Gino’s HBR article “The Business Case for Curiosity” explains what makes curiosity so important and why we should always be cultivating more of it.

Curiosity triggers deeper thinking which leads to better decisions and more creative solutions. Curiosity also promotes open dialogue and debate which reduces conflict and silos. Teams communicate better and are more productive.

So how can you foster more curiosity?

  1. Hire for curiosity. Look for obsessive, lifelong learners. Former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, sums up the focus on hiring for curiosity perfectly: “We run this company on questions, not answers.”
  2. Model inquisitiveness. Let inquiries and investigation inform vision and strategy. Another positive benefit: When we demonstrate curiosity by asking questions, people like us more and view us as more competent.
  3. Emphasize learning goals. Research shows that when motivated by learning goals, instead of performance goals, we acquire more skills, do better at work, do better on problem-solving tasks, and receive higher ratings after training.
  4. Let employees explore. Travel, training, and time allow employees to pursue extracurricular interests that can lead to value within the organization.
  5. Have “Why?” and “What if?” days. If you’ve spent any time around kids, you know that “Why?” is a favorite word of those below the age of 10. But the older we get the more self-conscious we become. Create time and space for people to openly question challenges and solutions.

Gino sums up the business case for curiosity like this:

“In most organizations, leaders and employees alike receive the implicit message that asking questions is an unwanted challenge to authority. They are trained to focus on their work without looking closely at the process or their overall goals. But maintaining a sense of wonder is crucial to creativity and innovation. The most effective leaders look for ways to nurture their employees’ curiosity to fuel learning and discovery.”

Have a great week.

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