Aren’t You Curious? Four Ways to Stimulate Organizational Curiosity

There is no doubt that curiosity fosters creativity and innovation. Seeing is believing – and I’ve seen it in action. When leaders and learners understand that they have permission to ask questions and pursue interests and passion projects, productivity skyrockets.

Think about it this way – remember when you were in school and you were assigned a project about a subject or a book that you actually loved? You were immediately excited about how to approach the subject in an interesting way. You brainstormed ways to present your project in a new and innovative way. Your mind was churning with fun and creative ways to tackle the assignment. You couldn’t wait to get started.

This is the kind of enthusiasm that drives your best work. There is no difference from the classroom to the Board room. To stay competitive, companies must be willing to move away from complacency and continually question the status quo. Organizational curiosity does just that – it feeds people’s natural desire to know more. And when employees are allowed to find out more, they achieve more.

Did you know that Google Founders encourage their employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google? This empowers them to be more creative and innovative and many of Google’s significant advances have happened during this 20% time including Google News, Gmail and AdSense.

So how do you jump start a culture of curiosity at your organization? Here are four ways to get started:

  • Encourage dumb questions – No more wry looks or stifled laughter. Remove the stigma of asking a question that may make you look foolish at work. Each time you have a collaborative environment, remind participants that all questions are encouraged. Teach and celebrate the art of asking powerful, compelling – sometimes provocative – questions.
  • Stop the blame game – Curiosity means taking risks; innovation is impossible without it. You can’t abandon accountability, but in a culture of curiosity, employees understand that the risk of failure or occasional setbacks are the cost of curiosity. Remove the fear and reframe failure as the significant opportunity for learning that it is.
  • Don’t be a slave to the process – Obsessive focus on how people do things rather than on getting the job done is a creativity killer. Leaders should look at the end result and encourage curiosity about how best to attain it. Trust the people that you hired and trained—and then give them the autonomy to uncover the strategies and tactics that work best.
  • Be a Curious Leader – Curiosity needs champions, and that needs to start at the top. The willingness to ask questions in meetings, and say, “I don’t know, so let’s find out” or “That’s one right answer, what’s another one?” — these are leadership traits as important as direct communication.

Remember that curiosity is something that we’re born with. We just need to find our way back to looking at the world and asking, ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ and ‘what’s possible?’ Imagine what your organization could achieve when people begin learning and asking questions about the things they actually WANT to know about.

Need help sparking creativity and innovation in your organization? We’ve got the perfect workshop for you. Reach out to us at

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