Creating a Culture of Curiosity: Why Curiosity Matters in Business
I’m in the business of curiosity. Yep, I ask questions for a living. Imagine that! My name is Jeanne Smith, and I am a Sr. Executive Coach at Procore.
So really, what is curiosity, and what is the impact of being curious at work? Keep in mind, I’m speaking about curiosity outside of my direct role as a coach, and looking more holistically at the entire organization’s population and business outcomes.
Curiosity is defined as a strong desire to know or learn something new. Questions like, “what if?”, “how might we?”, “why/why not?”, “what next?”, “what else?”, are courageous stances in saying “I don’t know, but I want to.” The Irish poet, James Stephens said, “Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.” Rather than the ‘wait and see’ approach, getting curious allows you to be present in your efforts to solve and learn, it sparks innovation through transparent vulnerability, it invites open minds, and encourages multiple perspectives. Welcoming curiosity elicits the emotional cue that says I want to hear what you think. In that, you build a trusted environment for people to fail, invite diverse points of view, both of which can result in energized engagement! Innovation does not come from an existing condition, but rather from an environment that is open to being challenged, thinking outside the box, and feeling safe to contribute. Walt Disney once said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
Innovation does not come from an existing condition, but rather from an environment that is open to being challenged, thinking outside the box, and feeling safe to contribute.
There is new research* in this growth mindset of inquiry, and it has revealed some powerful benefits, including fewer decision-making errors, more innovation and positive changes, reduced group conflict, more open communication and better team performance. Not only is curiosity imperative to an organization’s performance, but it motivates employees to be more trusting and collaborative with their colleagues.
Not only is curiosity imperative to an organization’s performance, but it motivates employees to be more trusting and collaborative with their colleagues.
Inquiry can often be seen as a disruption in the workplace, and asking questions can put some people on the defensive – ‘who are they to question me/that?’ – and this can shut people down all too quickly, and limit learning, growth and innovation.
But imagine going to work every day in an environment that encourages, recognizes and maybe even rewards people for being curious! What’s possible? Innovation? Creativity? Inclusion? Empathy? Agility? At Procore, creating a coaching culture is not only a priority for our business, but leading with inquiry elevates the human exchange bringing forth respect, trust, and thoughtful attention to our colleagues and clients.
There is something that happens when an individual gives their full attention and interest in another, and takes the time and thoughtfulness to ask a question. How often have you made an assumption about someone or something and been wrong? Assumptions are a slippery slope, and can wreak havoc on business progress and/or relationships. One of my favorite catch-phrases I learned from Marcus Buckingham, and I try to live every day, is to be curious first! In other words, don’t assume, ask!
Next time you feel the impulse to TELL or ASSUME, I invite you to pause, and get curious! Ask a question! I suspect you will be pleasantly surprised at not only how fulfilling it can feel, but there just might be a business improvement along the way!
*HBR – The business Case for Curiosity, Sept 2018