In a time when organizations struggle to remain innovative, it is imperative to recognize the importance of developing curiosity in employees to achieve growth and even survival.
Leaders recognize that status-quo thinking can be problematic, not only to innovation but to the root of their organizational culture. However, even the best companies often fall into the status-quo thinking trap by now allowing their employees to explore possibilities and posit questions.
Through developing curiosity in organizations, leaders cannot only break the habit of status-quo thinking but can develop innovative cultures within their organizations.
It is not enough for organizations to know if employees have a high or low level of curiosity, it is imperative to understand what inhibits it. New research has emerged that concluded that the factors that impede curiosity include an individual’s fear, assumptions, technology, and their environment. After understanding this concept, leaders can focus on shifting their corporate culture and sharing that they embrace curiosity as a core value with their employees.
While most leaders admit they value curiosity, only about half of the employees feel their curiosity has been rewarded. It can help to look at what successful organizations have done to create an organizational culture of curiosity.
1. They Look for Answers in Unlikely Places
Organizations that embrace a culture of curiosity look past how things have “always been done” and consider questions like:
- Why do we do it this way?
- Why don’t we do it another way?
- What if we tried something different?
Sometimes innovative and creative ideas come from the unlikeliest of places. When leaders are open to considering, not only outside the silo thinking but outside of their industry thinking, the potential for success increases.
An Example: Great Ormond Street Hospital in London
A hospital in London experienced significant numbers of casualties when transferring patients from the operating room to recovery. Physicians received inspiration after watching a Formula One racing team’s efficiency in how they quickly and efficiently serviced their cars. The race team was invited to come in and view the hospital’s transfer procedures, and then make observations based on their processes. The team’s input helped the hospital dramatically reduce their errors.
To allow employees to seek new solutions to common issues, organizations can have “what if,” “why not,” “how can we” days that focus on alternatives outside of the status quo way of thinking to improve their company culture. Allowing employees to spend time in different departments or divisions can expose them to alternative perspectives and allow them to avoid siloed approaches. Employees could also spend time researching other industries to consider solutions to problems that might mirror some of their experiences.
Leaders can ask themselves what they do to get out of status-quo thinking to ensure they model the values they envision their employees should emulate.
2. They Let Go Of The Past
A critical part of being curious is to consider why something that worked in the past might no longer work in the present or future, which might require a culture change. Marshall Goldsmith’s book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was a critical success for work culture, because he pointed out something that many leaders had not considered. There can be comfort in thinking we have discovered the solution to workplace culture problems. However, if we rest on our laurels, we might find that what worked in the past is no longer relevant to today’s market.
An Example: Ben and Jerry’s
An organization that embraces this concept is Ben and Jerry’s. One of the things that makes them innovative is that they are willing to let go of what is no longer successful. Ben and Jerry’s literally bury their old flavors. They have a business funeral. On their website, they have a gravesite for the dead and buried.
For example, on their site, they might showcase a flavor with dates from 1993-2001 when that flavor was successful, but now, they buried it because it is no longer popular. They do not lament over the loss of the idea. They simply recognize it was a great idea for its time, but now it is time to move onto bigger and better things.
It can be comfortable to cling to ways that were once successful. Leaders should consider what products or practices they have held onto past their usefulness date. Is there a system you have used for a long time that worked in the past, can you celebrate it and retire it? Maybe it is time to give it a business funeral.
3. They Set Ambitious Curiosity-Based Goals
Research from HBR found that 85% of C-suite executives across 17 countries believed that their organizations were bad at diagnosing problems. To improve this, some companies have determined to create a culture that focuses on asking questions and exploring new ideas.
An Example: Novartis
At Novartis, they set high expectations for the development of curiosity within their organization’s business culture. They set goals for their employees to spend 5% of their time or 100 hours a year developing their curiosity. To assist in achieving that goal, they host webinars, fund training, and inspire their employees through curiosity-based events.
Organizations can enforce the importance of curiosity by making curiosity development part of their organizational culture in their yearly performance review.
Leaders can improve organizational behavior by asking employees to provide insight on ways they would like to develop their curiosity. When employees have input into goals, they feel a sense of ownership and responsibility, which makes goals more meaningful while still being attainable and challenging.
Leaders can schedule monthly or quarterly meetings to assess progress in these areas.
In organizational culture theory, a group of people has a standard set of values. It is critical to include curiosity as one of those values. Giving lip-service to cultural goals is not enough. Leaders must model the behaviors they desire in their followers. Creating an organizational culture of curiosity depends on leaders who can create an atmosphere where questions and ideas are embraced. When that occurs, leaders create a company culture with a path to a more engaged, innovative, and productive organization.