Curiosity. It’s a major influencer and indicator of success, both in and out of the workplace. In fact, curiosity is proven to actually prep our brain for learning new things, open us up to new personal growth opportunities and even help us find more meaning in life.
Yet while curiosity clearly plays an important role in our lives and in our work, most businesses struggle to find a way to embrace the trait, as it is easy to espouse the virtues of building a healthy atmosphere of curiosity in your team and company values, but it’s incredibly difficult to put it into practice. In fact, a recent Merck KGaA study noted that 84 percent of employees felt that their employers encouraged curiosity, but 60 percent of them also believe that there are barriers to building curiosity into their work.
It takes a diligent leader to bring that curious mentality to the rest of your team and make sure that it is emphasized during regular day-to-day conversations, meetings and projects. Here are three tips to help you establish and maintain that curiosity in your own office and company culture.
Empower employees at all levels through ownership.
It’s been shown that big companies in mature industries, even when they realize the value of curiosity, struggle with nurturing it within their employees.
One way to counter this type of situation is by creating a non-traditional workplace structure focused around empowering workers of all levels. On the whole, you want all of your employees to feel like “mini CEOs.” This type of empowerment allows for full ownership of a project and emboldens employees to fight for their ideas. By rewarding those who speak up and giving credit to leaders of all levels, personal growth through curiosity becomes a far more attainable idea. It also paves the way for new voices in the company to bring forth fresh ideas.
Encourage outside hobbies.
When we’re exposed to the same ideas and activities day in and day out, it is difficult to maintain a creative mindset. This is where hobbies outside of work play an important role in employee performance. A recent San Francisco State University study of workers found that those who engaged in “creative pursuits” -- anything from playing video games to writing short stories -- had improved job performance and specifically out-performed their hobby-less coworkers when it came to creative problem-solving.
However, with many jobs veering off of the traditional “9-to-5” schedule and with the line between “work life” and “home life” more blurry than ever before, it’s important for businesses to take an active role in encouraging their employees’ side passions. Whether during a designated sharing time at company meetings or by encouraging your team to take advantage of all of their vacation days, a continued conversation regarding life outside of the office and support for such endeavors will allow your employees to be more curious in their work. In my own company, we’ve found a balance by encouraging employees to bring their personal passions into the office with a series of informative show and tells. In the past, we’ve had employees give presentations as varied as a tutorial on how to tie nautical knots to a (somewhat murky) recollection of variations in whiskey based on a recent trip to Ireland.
Create cross-team communication.
One of the keys to breeding an environment of curiosity is to provide employees with exposure to as many different ideas as possible through cross-team communication. One of the most popular ways to build this type of communication across the company is by physically opening up the office, allowing people to interact with parts of the organization they may not normally come into direct contact with. If opening up the physical space isn’t possible, businesses can also turn to new communication channels such as Slack, which allow for workplace bonding and discussion across not only workplace boundaries but also physical distances, bringing offices from around the country (and the world) together like never before. In companies with several different offices, it’s helpful to maintain all-hands-on-deck meetings or even to install visual live-streams into each office to contribute to that connection.
Every company and every office will need to experiment with some of these suggestions in order to best determine which makes the most sense for your team, your industry, and even your product. It can be a daunting task, but one well worth the investment and risk. We have a saying at Wibbitz that I took from my roots in the Israeli military and that speaks to the opportunity here: Those who dare, win.