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Curiosity might be a liability for felines, but it is the secret sauce you’ve been looking for in the workplace.
Why? Because we live in a complicated world, where successful business ventures rely on experimentation, boldness and a willingness to try new things. Reactionary thinking only causes more problems — but natural curiosity, with all of its “why don’t we try it this way” pioneering spirit, may be the only way to respond to a world that changes as frequently as ours.
CEOs on curiosity
Since the professional world is always interested in what it takes to build a more efficient and responsive company culture, many surveys are conducted each year to get to the bottom of which traits make for the best employees — and the healthiest, best-adapted workforce.
What we now know is that more and more CEOs are praising curiosity — and its close cousin, open-mindedness — as one of the most important qualities in a potential new hire. Indeed, a recent survey conducted by PwC, showed that these traits rose to the top of desirability rankings among the thousand-plus CEOs queried.
This might feel like an obvious shift in perspective, and maybe it is — but it’s enlightening to see so many noted CEOs coming together on this topic. It makes a lot of sense, too. Leadership these days appears to be less about possessing all of the answers from the get-go and more about being willing to explore new ideas and fresh concepts to tackle the unforeseen.
To put it more simply, the world has grown too interconnected and complex to rely any longer on “conventional wisdom” or familiarity with the status quo.
Why curious people excel
We’re not just guessing here — curiosity has actually been on the mind of some prominent researchers. What we now know is that curiosity is an important characteristic when it comes to thinking creatively to solve problems.
This type of data saw publication recently in the journal of Personality and Individual Differences. Co-authored by Alisha Ness and Jensen Mecca, the research provides some key insight into why curiosity should be one of any hiring manager’s most sought-after traits.
According to their findings, employees who earn strong marks for curiosity on personality evaluations tend to work more creatively, are better suited for working on new concepts and are generally more effective problem-solvers.
This all makes perfect sense. The team member who’s not afraid of exposure to new ideas is probably quite a bit more likely to see a solution before anybody else.
During Ness’ and Mecca’s study, they had 122 college students take a personality test to specifically evaluate their curiosity. From there, they asked them to try their hand at working with a retail company to develop a marketing campaign.
Their findings were pretty clear: The participants who exhibited strong curiosity early on ended up developing more ideas than their less curious peers.
That’s all great news, but curious folks go even further. Since the modern workplace requires cross-training, diverse skill sets and frequent collaboration, employing curious people can make all these moving parts, well, move a bit more smoothly.
By making curiosity one of the primary features you look for in a potential new hire, you can build a team full of people who are more willing and better able to tackle a variety of projects, learn new skills and disciplines. Overall, these individuals can make your organization more efficient, effective and ready to tackle whatever new challenge comes next.
One more thing
There’s one more unsung benefit of curiosity: improved empathy. Curious people are much more likely to make genuine efforts to get to know others — a road that leads to stronger and more trusting relationships, both inside the workplace and far beyond it. We all know the world is troubled, but rarely do we spend time thinking about what it actually takes, on a personal level, to co-exist and even thrive together. Mutual respect and understanding don’t just arise out of nothing — we have to work for them.
Frankly, the world could use a bit more empathy these days — and fostering curiosity is a great way to encourage it.