How to Encourage Curiosity in a Digital Workplace
The future of work continues to evolve as organizations refine their hybrid and remote strategies to improve employee performance and overcome operational challenges. While disruption and adaptability look set to remain common themes in the digital workplace, curiosity is also becoming an important asset.
According to the [email protected] Report from analytics firm SAS, curiosity is proving to be an asset for many of the problems leaders face, including how to deliver greater efficiency and productivity, improving creative thinking, and encouraging more collaboration and teamwork.
How to encourage and build curiosity, however, is not that simple. To reap the rewards, leaders must learn to embrace and encourage employee curiosity. Here are some tips on how to do that.
Building a Culture of Curiosity
By seeking out new information and experiences, curious employees tend to naturally stumble on insights that support shrewd decision-making but also expand their horizon of possibilities. The desire to learn is a strong attribute in any field and leaders should encourage employee curiosity, from learning more about the company and its competitors to finding out what's trending in the industry and beyond.
Achieving the level of curiosity that drives individuals to actively seek out more information — rather than just executing a task as requested — starts with keeping employees engaged. According to Arvind Jain, CEO at Palo Alto, Calif.-based Glean, once you get the ball rolling it can make employees even more curious, which can have a snowball effect and help cultivate more engagement and curiosity.
“We have a Slack channel dedicated to sharing industry and competitor news,” said Jain. “Different folks share the things they come across, and those learnings turn into engaging conversation and banter amongst our team."
Like just about any other aspect of organizational culture, the value being promoted needs to permeate all levels of management. Olivier Plante, founder and CEO of Barcelona, Spain-based Fleksy, said leaders also need to be open and eager to continuously learn new things about themselves and their management style, as well as team members’ ways of thinking and doing things.
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The Curiosity-Innovation Link
When employees are curious about a problem or situation, it entices them to find a way to solve or improve it by trying new approaches. In fact, 62% of managers, according to the SAS data, have found curiosity valuable for finding innovative solutions, and 55% said they've found curiosity helpful in tackling complex problems.
This link between curiosity and innovation is especially relevant to the hybrid workplace where employees are often not in the same location. Getting it right starts with the digital relationships among employees. “When you and your colleagues foster a positive digital relationship, getting creative together becomes a lot easier," Plante said. "This also encourages new ways of collaborating on innovative ideas.”
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Seeing how others think differently and push boundaries inspires people to continue to do the same, Jain said. And pushing the boundaries is precisely how innovation occurs. Discovering great ideas and products from other industries can be a catalyst for new approaches within a company's industry, but to encourage that innovation, leaders must give their employees the room to explore their strengths and interests.
“You want your employees to be inquisitive and creative and allow them plenty of room to experiment with their own ideas,” said Frederic Linfjärd, director of growth marketing at Copenhagen, Denmark-based Planday. This could mean giving employees the freedom to work on their own projects at times. Doing so can spark the creative juices that lead to further curiosity and greater innovation on things they’re doing at work.
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Remote Work Doesn't Have to Stifle Curiosity
Curiosity has been shown to impact the digital workplace positively, yet many still believe that remote work can limit employee curiosity and consequently stifle innovation. While it can be challenging to motivate and engage in a virtual setting, there are ways to encourage curiosity and drive the same results. The onus, once again, falls on leadership.
“It’s important to keep projects interesting and experiment with ideas teams or individuals bring forward,” said Plante.
Start by focusing on company goals and ensuring the team shares a collective vision and excitement for company growth. Communicating across the company and encouraging remote-friendly engagement practices can help contribute to company progress and boost employee curiosity.
“As long as we all have the tools to share our knowledge and connect with each other, remote and distributed work shouldn’t limit our curiosity or innovation,” Jain said.