In my first article of this 3-part series on curiosity, I discussed the essential role and corresponding benefits of curiosity in the workplace. This article delves deeper into what is necessary to create a curious-positive culture.
It starts with taking note of people’s mindsets (including your own). There are certain thought patterns that create the conditions for curiosity to soar, and enable it to have the greatest positive effect and overall impact on individuals and teams throughout the organization.
The good news is most of these thought patterns are observable (through vocabulary, body language and individual and group interactions and relationships) and can serve as an excellent way to gauge whether curiosity indeed takes effect and leads to greater creativity, performance, satisfaction, engagement and outcomes at all levels of the organization.
Below are 7 mindsets that both promote and support curiosity, and can serve as indicators of the extent to which curiosity is valued, encouraged and practiced at the individual, team and company-wide level. They also serve as good indicators for evaluating the curiosity quotient and potential of prospective hires.
While it is essential that everyone throughout the organization possess these curiosity-fueling mindsets, the only way to maximize the benefits of curiosity is if all of the company’s top management and, equally important, all department and division heads, managers, team leads, supervisors, and/or others who have direct or indirect responsibility for other employees genuinely believe in the value of curiosity, and do what is necessary to encourage and support their employees in doing the same.
Self- and Others-Awareness
- Do your employees demonstrate that they are self-aware and capable of self-reflecting in a way that leads to growth and great relationships? If you asked them to describe how they see themselves – their strengths; the mindsets/thought patterns that matter most to them; the areas they would like to work on; how others perceive them – would their answers align with your perception and/or others?
- Do they care about, not only their role and what they do, but also who they are in a professional context (i.e., the mindsets, values and behaviors they choose to possess)?
- Do they seek to understand the feelings and reasons behind their own and other people’s behaviors and actions, as opposed to taking everything and everyone at face value, forming judgments and responding only based on their assumptions?
- Do they appear curious when someone has an idea or perspective they don’t like, rather than deferring to an autopilot judgment and ceasing to listen?
- Can you see and hear the fascination in your employees? Are they wonder-ers?
- Do they ask why and how questions frequently and appear hungry, not only for answers, but for the next set of questions that should naturally follow?
- Is their excitement palpable (through tone, facial expressions, body language, etc.) when struck with new ideas of their own and, equally so, when others demonstrate extreme ideation?
- Do they get excited about other people’s ideas as much as they do their own?
- Are your employees aware of and able to control their reactivity when they are emotionally triggered by something completely unrelated/irrelevant to the person/situation at hand (i.e., they have a negative reaction to someone simply because that person reminds them of someone else they did not like, or with whom they had a negative experience)?
- Are your employees able to recognize and separate their emotions from their actions?
- Do your employees exhibit behavior that suggests that they recognize they have a choice as to whether or not they act on their negative emotions (anger, fear, etc.), or consciously choose a more practical, positive-results-oriented action that is sometimes the exact opposite of how they feel?
Distinguish Facts from Assumptions
- Do your employees recognize the need to be able to distinguish facts from assumptions?
- Can they distinguish facts from assumptions, particularly when working as a team?
- Do they challenge their own assumptions and biases?
- Do your teams make it not only acceptable, but a core value and expectation of the team as a whole that everyone will hold each other accountable to distinguish facts from assumptions and not making decisions based on faulty assumptions and biases?
No Idea or Accomplishment Is Ever Just an ‘I’
- Do your employees embrace the firm reality that their idea is never just their idea, that none of us is ever solely an ‘I’? All our ideas and perspectives reflect, and are compelled in part by, what we have learned, consciously and subconsciously, from other individuals and groups, as well as our experiences and interactions, and our overall existence in a social world. Even Elon Musk would be the first to say that he didn’t come up with the idea of the self-driving car on his own.
- Do your employees truly value their work relationships as much as they do the work at hand and their individual performance? At a very basic level, do they say ‘we’ rather than an ‘I’ when they speak about their work, positive or negative, success or not-success?
- Are they ‘opportunity seekers’ for others, not just themselves? Do they exhibit obvious behaviors (and verbal and body language) and seek out opportunities to help others perform and succeed to their maximum potential?
- When a mistake is made, do your teams demonstrate resilience that involves coming together as a team and supporting each other as a collective whole, rather than resorting to individual blame or breaking off into factions?
Comfort with Not Knowing
- Curiosity is not just an insatiable desire for knowledge and experience; it is also the ability to find comfort and excitement in not having knowledge and experience, and increasing it as a result. Are your employees comfortable with ‘not knowing’? Do they view it as exciting and an opportunity to learn and grow?
- Do your managers show, not just in words, but in body language, reactions and affirmations that they truly encourage and respect when their employees demonstrate comfort with saying and showing that they don’t know something?
- Is a ‘half-baked’ idea valued and respected, i.e., are employees comfortable proposing only partial ideas and inviting others to add to and/or reframe them?
Questions Are as Highly Respected as Answers
- Does everyone recognize the power of questions and inquisitiveness and view them with the same level of respect as answers and ideas?
- Do they recognize that creativity and innovation doesn’t just come from having answers. It also requires great questions that lead to even greater questions that eventually lead to great ideas and solutions.
Stay tuned for the 3rd article in this 3-part series in which I provide some simple, implementation-ready strategies to cultivate the above mindsets at the individual, team and company-wide level.