Imagine you are back in your fifth grade classroom. Mrs. Smith is at the front of the room scribbling words on the chalkboard. She turns to the class and starts to facilitate a brainstorm for a class-wide project. One by one, the hands of your classmates delicately rise, and ideas are delivered with slight hesitation. However, you notice that Mrs. Smith writes every idea on the chalkboard without judgement.
As the session goes on, more hands begin to rise with excitement, and more ideas pour out of each student. The class is curious, excited, and not afraid to share their thoughts. The cardinal rule of brainstorming is that no idea is a dumb idea, and it is something that has been instilled in us since elementary school.
But despite that curiosity that was cultivated in our early years, we still have a fear of asking “dumb” questions. There’s no doubt that the confidence of our childhood dwindled through school, work, and life. Do you find yourself beginning questions by saying, “This might be a dumb question, but…?” To your surprise, you might be saying this statement more often than not.
Why have we become afraid to ask questions? To challenge ourselves? Whatever the case, we need to remind each other that no question is a dumb question, no idea too stupid. Promoting curiosity in the workplace is the answer to instilling confidence back into each other.
The Empowerment Gap
Curiosity is a buzzword these days. Job postings in an array of industries claim that curiosity is an important part of the position. Applicants need to be curious learners. Applicants need to bring innovation and curiosity to the job. Applicants must possess curiosity.
But with all this talk of curiosity, how much is that trait actually nurtured inside the workplace? Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review demonstrated an alarming gap empowerment. According to the survey, 83% of c-suite executives claimed curiosity is highly encouraged, but 53% of individual contributors feel the same.
There is also a gap when it comes to curiosity and its hand in salaries and promotions. About half of c-suite executives claim curiosity is a part of salary increases and only 16% of individual contributors agree. 81% of employees believed that curiosity made no difference when it came to compensation.
This empowerment gap is alarming because lower-level employees are not seeing the value in curiosity. If it’s not encouraged, why be curious? If it won’t propel your career forward, why be curious?
The Importance of Curiosity
Whether you work on the third floor or the 45th, curiosity should be important to you. You see, curiosity is the foundation of learning. A 2014 study found that “People are better at learning information that they are curious about.” It also claimed that memory is enhanced when people are in curious states.
For all employees, the ability to learn is essential. Creating an environment where learning occurs is vital to the success of your company. If curiosity stimulates learning, and learning leads to innovation and success, then curiosity must be cherished by everyone in the company.
The Actions You Can Make
There are actions you can take to ensure your employees and colleagues feel that curiosity is valued.
It all comes back to that “dumb” question mentality and you taking the steps to transform this perception. There is no such thing as a dumb question, and it is so important that your company believes that. You must create a safe environment for all employees, and in a collaborative setting, remind everyone to be open-minded and encourage questions.
You should also place emphasis on how you and your coworkers can achieve results on a project, not just the results themselves. This gives employees creative freedom with how they want to earn success. Many times the process is just as important as the outcome, with companies setting rigid regulations on how things can be achieved. We urge you to break this barrier and explore alternative processes.
No matter what your title, set a good example. Leaders lead best by example! Adi Gaskell, a Forbes contributor, says it best, “you should be seeking wisdom just as often as you share it.”
Remember when you were a kid and nothing stood between you and the desire to find answers. You were a curious young thing, always wanting to learn and never feeling ashamed. Channel the child inside you while at the workplace. You’ll see a difference in yourself and in those around you.
If you’re looking for ways to promote curiosity within your company or team, iGenCo has solutions for you. Give us a call and you’ll be one step closer to developing a work environment dedicated to creativity, curiosity, and success.