Is curiosity good or bad for your business? Professionals sometimes reign in curiosity for fear it will reduce efficiency and raise the cost of doing business, but research shows that “curiosity is vital to an organization’s performance.” Organizational cultures and teams that ask questions, listen for new ideas and are genuinely curious tend to produce more innovative ideas.
Beyond innovation, the research cites other benefits of curiosity range from reduced group conflicts and fewer decision making errors to better team performance and more open communication. The same research also shows that while leaders and employees generally understand that curiosity is good for business, leaders often fail to encourage it.
So what stops curiosity from happening? Mindset is often the culprit. Unbeknownst to us, we have filters that prevent new or different information from entering our mind, which trap habitual ways of thinking and concepts in our mind and limit our performance.
Similarly, in today’s ever-evolving and fast-paced global economy, stopping to think through alternative scenarios or approaches takes time. Professionals often opt for the first solution that comes to mind or the one that is easiest to execute, for the sake of efficiency and cost. In doing so, leaders and organizations risk the common pitfalls that arise when people use recycled ideas that are not truly new or innovative. Consequently, projects become less engaging and employees become less engaged, thus lowering the bar and putting people in a “business as usual” mindset.
Is your mindset open to curiosity? Here are a few ways I encourage professionals to “stay curious” and foster a mindset that elevates performance:
- Direct your attention away from yourself. Focus your attention on the other person. You don’t really learn anything new when you reinforce your own opinions, ideas or beliefs. However, you can learn a lot and discover completely new ways of approaching tough problems by being more inquisitive about how others make their choices.
- Don’t focus on what you know. Instead, think about what you can learn from someone else. You’ll be surprised at what you might find in plain sight that you never noticed before.
- Consider what others are thinking. Rather than holding fast to deeply-held beliefs, positions and ideas, open your mind to the perspectives of others. You’ll gain a more in-depth understanding of why others make the decisions they do and what motivates them – and perhaps, even discover some of what drives your own behavior.
- Talk less, listen more. Listen and ask questions, with the intention of discovering something new – maybe even something exciting! What you learn could have a profound impact on the outcomes you are trying to achieve. Added bonus: You’ll often find this practice improves team performance. Once team members realize that their ideas can shape and influence the direction of projects and outcomes, they’ll feel empowered to drive performance and motivated to contribute.
So, ask questions. Uproot “business-as-usual” thinking. Listen for new ideas. Stay curious, and support a culture of curiosity. Doing these things can be the difference between remaining relevant or ending up in your client’s rear-view mirror.
Wendi Wasik Forbes Councils Member