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  • Writer's pictureVrunda Chauk

The Benefits of Encouraging Curiosity in the Workplace

The year was 2004. On a billboard in Silicon Valley - "{first 10-digit prime found in consecutive digits of e}.com." this puzzle appeared anonymously. What could it be? Some people were curious enough to solve it and eager to see what it was about. The answer 7427466391.com, opened a link to another equation that had to be solved. It turns out the ad was posted by Google to hire their next best talent.


This incident highlights the fact that Google values the attribute of curiosity in its employees. This hardly comes as a surprise because curiosity drives innovation. In a world where things are changing at a rapid pace and new versions are constantly being invented, to be successful one needs to innovate and lead the change.


Why is it so important to be curious?


Due to constant exposure to the same tasks every single day, we tend to get used to the challenges that our job brings. After a while, we also get pretty good at guessing the kind of bugs that might come up and get better at fixing those bugs. When we get used to doing things a certain way, we do not stop to think of other, more effective ways of doing the same thing. This hampers the growth of an organisation.


“Curiosity creates energy; the need for certainty depletes. Curiosity results in exploration; the need for certainty creates closure. Curiosity creates movement; the need for certainty is about replaying events. Curiosity creates relationships; the need for certainty creates defensiveness.” - Todd Kashdan (American Psychologist and Professor at George Mason University)

In simple terms, curiosity drives change. It makes us look at what is and think about all the endless possibilities to make it better.


The Curiosity Loop


There have been various researches conducted on the topic of curiosity. One of the interesting findings was that curious people tend to be happier. A scientific reason for this could be that curiosity activates the brain's reward system, releasing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, which is associated with pleasure and motivation. This gives us a sense of satisfaction when we learn a new piece of information. When you feel satisfied and motivated, you are further encouraged to explore more. This is the curiosity loop.


But being curious is not just good because you get to learn new things. Learning new things and seeking novelty has many other benefits. For instance one study found that people who are more curious tend to live longer! A study published in Psychology and Aging found that out of its participants (aged between 60-86), those who ranked higher on curiosity were more likely to be alive 5 years later.


Another benefit of being curious is that the more you learn new things, the more neural pathways are created in the brain. This indicates that the brain stays active and alert over a period of time and it improves memory and focus. This also helps to stay mentally fit while aging.

Why should curiosity be encouraged at the workplace?


Curious people are the ones who ask a lot of questions, who are not satisfied with the way things are and are always seeking for better alternatives. They are the ones who believe in diving deep into the issue and identifying where the real problem lies and working to find a solution. They are usually the first ones to notice if things are not going well and they would proactively take initiatives to fix that problem.


These are definitely the kind of people you would want on your team.


Curiosity makes people open-minded


Knowingly or unknowingly we are influenced by various stereotypes projected by people around us. It is often difficult to catch ourselves acting in accordance with those projected stereotypes. Being curious however makes one interested in other people's viewpoints. This exchange of information leads to people understanding each other's perspectives.


In order to promote diversity and inclusion and even to simply cultivate better relationships among colleagues at the workplace, it is necessary to encourage curiosity.


Curiosity removes ignorance


There comes a time when we get used to how things are done and stop questioning. When we stop questioning and take things for granted, we miss out on small details that can lead to a big impact. It is important to consider nuances while making an important decision. Curiosity helps us look at how things have always been done and ask - What can I do to improve this or make this better?


Curiosity encourages Innovation


The law of gravity would not have been invented if Newton did not stop to ask "why does the apple fall down?". Now I agree that no one knows if that really happened, but the point is valid. Curiosity is the birthplace of innovation. During these times of fast paced change, it is all about who innovates the best product first and is smart enough to execute properly.


An organisation cannot vouch for innovation and at the same time try to minimize curiosity. Organisations need to understand that it is good to question the status quo, it means people are thinking. They are taking initiative to understand why things are the way they are and open to changing what is outdated or no longer needed.


How to Cultivate Curiosity


Here are some tips to create an environment where creativity can flourish

  1. Encourage employees to ask questions, explore new ideas and take risks. Foster a positive environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and opinions.

  2. Cultivate psychological safety at the workplace.

  3. Discuss about the problems that need to be solved across different departments. Open the doors for innovation to anyone from the workplace.

  4. Don't be afraid to say "I don't know". That is the moment where the magic starts.


Curiosity is a key driver of good performance. By fostering a curious workforce, companies can improve overall performance, drive innovation, and yes, make their employees happier.


developing curiosity at work


 

We also recommend you to watch this interview with Priszcilla Várnagy on Disruptive Ways to Train People to Scale Up a great Work Culture. Priszcilla is the founder and CEO of Be-novative [Design Thinking Management Platform] and Superflow [the next-generation immersive learning platform].





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