Cultivating a culture of curiosity

Holy Curiosity

“Don’t think about why you question, simply don’t stop questioning. Don’t worry about what you can’t answer, and don’t try to explain what you can’t know. Curiosity is its own reason. Aren’t you in awe when you contemplate the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure behind reality?

And this is the miracle of the human mind — to use its constructions, concepts, and formulas as tools to explain what man sees, feels and touches. Try to comprehend a little more each day. Have holy curiosity.” Albert Einstein 


Einstein’s words sound beautiful and inspiring, although, being curious is natural for some and not a way of thinking for others. 

Curiosity puts the brain in a prime position of learning. When you are curious, there is a shift in thinking, the ego has to get out of the way and if you have enough awareness, you can even feel a shift physically in your body. Curiosity has also been linked with psychological, emotional, social and health benefits.

The best way to watch curiosity in action is to watch a small child playing, simply moving through the world in wonder and awe (and hopefully you have experienced this yourself). However, this begins to change once we enter school and a prescribed form of learning is taught and curiosity and questioning are usually not encouraged. 

Curiosity From School to Workplace

The culture geek in me loves nothing more than observing an organisation with a strong culture. Watching the behaviour and actions of employees being guided by a strong foundation of core values and allowing everyone to feel a sense of belonging and connection is indeed a beautiful thing.

Unfortunately, if the culture does not encourage curiosity or questioning and leaders do not model that behaviour, then employees will not feel they can question things just like in school. 

When you get stuck on one point of view, stuck on the way it was done before or simply judging the situation or the person….you are not open to thinking about other possibilities or solutions. 

In a survey conducted by Francesca Gino of more than 3,000 employees from different industries, only about 24% reported feeling curious in their jobs on a regular basis, and about 70% said they face barriers to asking more questions at work.

Gino also explains the benefits of curiosity at work stating “when we are curious, we view tough situations more creatively. Studies have found that curiosity is associated with less defensive reactions to stress and less aggressive reactions to provocation. We also perform better when we’re curious. In a study of 120 employees I found that natural curiosity was associated with better job performance, as evaluated by their direct bosses”.

5 Steps to Begin a Culture of Curiosity

At work, a culture of curiosity needs to start from the top. Here are 5 ways you can begin to create an inquisitive company culture in order to make it a safe place for everyone to share their ideas and grow together.

1/ Make curiosity part of your core values

Core values underpin everything in the workplace from behaviour to customer service. 

Not only can we define curiosity as a desire to learn & question new things at work like technology, systems & process, challenges etc., but just as important is the ability to be curious about everyone we meet. Getting to know you colleagues, customers and key stakeholders on a deeper level by asking questions about them, is a beautiful way to connect and bring more human to work.

2/ Model curiosity

When leaders can model curiosity and learning it gives permission for employees to feel safe enough to speak up and it then becomes the cultural norm to question things. Furthermore, when we show interest and ask questions about others it increases our empathy and compassion for them (who wouldn’t want more of that at work?). 

3/ Ask the right questions

Questions are powerful. Questions connect and allow you to take on a different perspective. For leaders and managers it may be as simple as starting with ‘Tell me more about……’. In our ‘Get Connected’ workshops we have ‘Connection Cultivator Cards’ with questions designed to connect employees and strengthen relationships. Read more about the power of questions here

4/ Provide opportunities for informal learning at work

We may not realise it, but we are always learning informally at work through coffee, lunch breaks or discussions before a meeting starts. But if we want to begin to create a learning organisation we have to begin to encourage learning and curiosity more purposefully.

Allowing employees to learn about something they are interested in is a good way to begin informal learning at work. We can also take it one step further and allow a platform for everyone to share what they are learning about too. 

5/ Apply an understanding of self & social awareness

Self awareness is being able to recognise, understand and regulate your own thoughts and feelings. On the other hand, social awareness is being able to determine how someone else might be feeling or thinking through compassion, curiosity and instincts. Both self and social awareness provide you with the emotional intelligence to question and observe things differently. 

Leaders often think that curiosity and questioning slows down the organisation and productivity, when we all intuitively know that it is from a space of curiosity that new solutions and improvements are found. 

Genuine curiosity towards one another at work also increases connection and compassion, one of the main contributors to increased happiness at work. 

Have I sold you yet on the benefits of cultivating curiosity? No?

I’m curious … tell me more about that ;). 

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