By Zander Lurie, CEO Survey Monkey
If you want to stay competitive as an employer of choice and provide growth opportunities for all your teams, be curious. If you want your organization to be more customer-centric and take market share, be curious. This singular trait, curiosity, will determine which firms will thrive and which ones will stumble.
We believe in the coming years, curiosity will become the next big topic for businesses and individuals around the world. There’s already a discussion of the fact that as Artificial Intelligence gets smarter and replaces more and more jobs, curiosity will become the key to landing (and succeeding in) a job, optimizing performance, and winning in the marketplace. It's unlikely we humans are going to outwork the robots. Our heartless friends will make fewer errors and take fewer vacation days. Being curious is our best defense. After all, we program the machines that do the work. Click below to continue reading...
Right now, however, curiosity simply doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It’s rarely part of strategic business development goals in organizations, and you don’t often find it on the list of official criteria for hiring or rewarding employees. In our recent study on curiosity in the workplace* that I presented at the Web Summit today, only 5% of U.S. employees named curiosity among the two most important characteristics that should be rewarded to help their company change and adapt for the future. Moreover, while the majority of U.S. professionals say they consider themselves as “extremely curious” or “very curious,” fewer than half think curiosity is valued in society at large.
At the same time business luminaries and leaders are speaking more and more about the importance of curiosity, recognizing it as the ultimate driver of success. A 2015 PwC survey of more than a thousand CEOs cited curiosity as one of the leadership traits that is becoming increasingly critical for companies. Earlier this year Bill Gates highlighted the crucial role curiosity plays in his life, noting, “this is a phenomenal time to be a curious person.” Business schools like Stanford and online learning hubs are starting to offer courses and programs on curiosity.
So, what’s holding us back from embracing our curiosity now?
The Culture of Genius is largely to blame. In this type of company culture some minds are seen as inherently more brilliant than others, and others are intimidated to question
things and speak up as a result. It can create a toxic environment that’s stifling curiosity and has many employees doubting whether they “have what it takes.” Stanford Professor Carol Dweck has studied this phenomenon and found it prevalent in many of the 200 startups and Fortune 1000 companies she spoke with.
Part of our recent study* was dedicated to barriers that stop people from asking questions in the workplace. Employees say the two major barriers are: “I don’t get real answers” and “I fear looking stupid” or “other’s reactions.” Moreover, there’s a clear disconnect between what senior leadership and their employees think on this matter. While 69% of C-suite respondents say they see no barriers to asking questions in their companies, only about a third of all employees agree with that premise.
And nevermind the rewards. Less than a quarter (22%) of the workforce believe that you can make more money by being more curious. Ask C-suite executive the same question, and you’ll see double the number of those who believe the curious will reap financial rewards.*
A tip for well-rewarded (and curious) leaders: if you dig deeper into what’s happening in your organization and build a culture where curiosity is actually rewarded, you’ll get people who ask more, learn more, and create unique opportunities for your business. Besides research also shows that the brain’s chemistry changes when we become curious, helping people better learn and retain information. And new employees who are curious, not only better adjust to their jobs, but also expand their networks, see new ways to do their work and spur innovation.**
Here are a few ways to start building the Culture of Curiosity in your company:
*In collaboration with INSEAD’s professor Spencer Harrison. Methodology: SurveyMonkey conducted this online “Curiosity in the Workplace” survey in two waves: June 21- 29, 2017 among a national sample of 13,331 adults ages 18 and up, including 8,988 people working full-time or part-time, and September 1-11, 2017 among a national sample of 6,490 adults ages 18 and up, including 4,278 people working full-time or part-time. Respondents for both waves were selected from the nearly 3 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States. The modeled error estimate for each wave is plus or minus 1.5 and 2 percentage points, respectively. More information on methodology: https://www.surveymonkey.com/mp/survey-methodology/
**Spencer Harrison, INSEAD, 2017
Want to find ways to increase the power of curiosity in your own work or at your firm? Contact us for a free consultation.