Why You Should Hire Curious Employees

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There are many traits associated with a good employee – independent, loyal, productive, and reliable. But one of the most important factors in determining not only the success of an employee, but also the company for which he or she works, is curiosity. That itch in the back of the brain telling you to try things…in a little bit different way.

It’s how companies like Google consistently launch new and interesting ideas into the marketplace, often outside their traditional areas of expertise. Perennial powerhouses of innovation like Proctor & Gamble, IBM, and 3M have constantly reinvented themselves and stayed relevant for decades. They look for and empower people who don’t just follow orders, but who instead think of new and exciting ways to do things. They are curious companies full of curious people.

It’s no surprise that Gallup International found in a recent poll that many of the best entrepreneurs are naturally creative and curious thinkers. They constantly think beyond the problem at hand and look to the future – instead of merely tackling the immediate problem, they think about how to address future recurrences of that problem; in some cases entirely reimagining how a product or service is delivered.

The Value of Curiosity in the Workplace

While all companies can benefit from hiring creative employees, it is the smallest companies that have the most to gain from retaining a staff of highly inquisitive, quick-thinking individuals. Startups and other small businesses need to change quickly, adapt to outside factors, and pivot when the industry or their competitors demand it.

People who follow a checklist day in and day out can easily be left behind in this environment. Someone might be hired to program the front end of a relatively simple app and find that he or she is in line for the CTO role in less than a year. Startups need people who are quick on their feet, capable of adapting to new requirements in real time, and eager to learn and try new things. Natural curiosity can accomplish things that pure intellect and experience cannot.

Intellectual curiosity is an amorphous thing but plays an important role in how we understand overall intelligence. Raw intellect is often measured based on what people have learned and on their hands-on experience, but curiosity is the X-factor that opens up new windows on the business environment. Intellectually curious people are natural learners who would quickly become bored in a Fortune 100 company with tens of thousands of coworkers and a very narrowly defined role. Curious people are more likely to invest in themselves by participating in ongoing training and conferences, and by reading up on new techniques and following thought leaders. They crave knowledge and want to know as much as possible about what they do. For them, it’s not just a job – it’s a way of life.

How to Encourage Curiosity in the Workplace

Human beings are typically educated in a strict, carefully structured environment that strips away much of their curiosity. The days of experimenting with piles of blocks as a happy toddler quickly gave way to standardized tests and strict lesson plans. But curiosity is one of the mostly important factors in learning, according to a 2010 study in the Journal of Personality Assessment.

Curious people get more out of their time spent learning and trying new things – they are eager to see what happens in new situations. Companies can foster the development of curiosity in the workplace by:

  • Encouraging Communication – companies should create safe, encouraging spaces for people to ask all kinds of questions. The seemingly sillier or more outlandish the questions the better. The questions that appear to be the most outlandish often lead to the most important innovations.
  •  Expanding Timelines – most businesses operate on a quarter-to-quarter, year-to-year basis. But long-term thinking is important for the generation of truly innovative ideas. Set aside time to focus on long-term problems.
  • Focusing on Talent in the Workplace – focus on each person’s unique skill set. It’s easy to focus on employees’ defined roles, but you might be missing their hidden skills and talents. Everyone has a job, but that job doesn’t fully encompass who each person really is. 

If your team approaches problem-solving in the workplace in an open-minded way that requires creative, curious thought, it will more effectively meet challenges and you’ll find exciting new opportunities you never knew were there. Adopting this mind-set will attract more and more curious minds to your company over time.

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