Valuing curiosity in your business and actually supporting it are two totally different things. If your employees are not able to ask questions and challenge your strategies and processes, you company isn't truly supporting a curious culture.
A recent study, which George Mason University psychology professor Todd Kashdan writes about in Harvard Business Review, finds that this disconnect exists at a majority of companies. In the study, 84 percent of respondents said their employer encourages curiosity, yet 60 percent say their employer has erected barriers that stifle it.
"It seems that organizations are claiming to value curiosity, but still discouraging its expression," Kashdan writes in HBR. "They cling to legacy structures and systems that emphasize authority over inquiry and routine over resourcefulness."
Out of the 16 industries studied, the household and personal products sector ranked as the most supportive of inquisitiveness, creativity, and openness. At the bottom of the list was the food and beverage industry.
Kashdan lays out three ways to stop stifling curiosity and start nurturing it. Read below to find out how to foster the right kind of environment.
Everything must be questioned
Kashdan says everything you do should be open to new investigation. "As a first step, questioning--from why something has always been done a certain way to why a leader holds a certain view--should be positively rewarded," he writes. Reward your employees for challenging beliefs and coming up with new ways to get things done and attract new business. Asking questions is the first step in discovery and creativity.
Kashdan says to ditch customer satisfaction surveys and have your employees start scrutinizing customer behavior--what makes them buy something, or why they stop patronizing your business entirely. "Leaders must emphasize observation," he says.
Seek new perspectives
Every quarter is a battle to meet goals and the demands of customers. Your employees have a treasure chest of ideas and new perspectives that can help you get there. But, Kashdan warns, some of your employees may be too shy or intimidated to make their voices heard. You must create a platform to support new perspectives and open yourself up to new ideas and criticism. "When you stop paying lip service to the power of curiosity and empower your employees to express it every day, you not only boost innovation and productivity, you enhance well-being," he writes.