Where does CURIOSITY belong in the workplace?
Curious George, the beloved monkey, gets himself into mess after mess due to his curious nature. It is innate in animals and humans to be curious. Are we curious enough as adults? As professionals? On the less messy adult side of curiosity, what value can it add to our work environments?
Open-mindedness – When we use our curiosity muscle to discover things in a conversation, we are much less likely to be defensive or assume negative intent. Curiosity allows us to step back and explore other people’s perspectives with positive observation. Instead of thinking “why is that person speaking to me that way, they must not trust me” we instead can explore by saying “Interesting thoughts, tell me more about what created this line of thinking for you”. It creates the ability for us to examine perspectives without judgment and immediately opens us up to acceptance of others for who they are and what they have to offer from their gifts and talents.
Innovation – When we approach a situation with curiosity, we open our right brains up to work alongside our logical left brains. We can use both to gather data and brainstorm ideas with our team or colleagues. When we engage the power of both our hemispheres, we double our ability to process and see options. Hemispheric activation or hemispheric switching has been discovered by neuroscience to take place in a variety of activities. When we are in distress or “shut down” and defensive, we limit our ability to have this open channel of activation. Some in neuroscience have replaced left and right brain thinking with top and bottom brain thinking. In this theory, our bottom brain is a basic function and where we retreat to in distress, limiting our ability for high complex logic. Either way, curiosity opens our higher thinking.
Leadership – Not inserting our opinion in every conversation allows others to see our listening muscle and inspires people to follow our lead. Curiosity in conversations and in meetings can lead to a culture shift of positive based inquisitions that lead the whole team and organization into a culture of curiosity. Whether you are in leadership yet or not, this level of behavior around curiosity will create followers and open doors up for opportunities to rise in the ranks.
Learning and retention – Recent studies by Dr. Matthias show that curiosity puts the brain in a state of heightened absorption. When something piques your curiosity, your reward circuitry kicks in and dopamine is released and makes you feel happier. The more you try curiosity, the more you will want to try curiosity. Epistemic curiosity for instance is when we go down that rabbit hole on the internet, deep diving into a tv series or subject we heard someone talking about at work. Empathetic curiosity on the other hand, is what we use in exploring other people and discovering how they tick. Both can be used in the workplace to learn and retain more information.
Experimentation and risk – Using our curiosity allows us to begin to experiment with other ways to use information or other systems at work or even ideas for innovation. As our bodies get rewarded for curiosity and learning, our confidence increases to explore new options, opportunities and take new risks. According to studies done by Science Direct, happier people are less risk averse, meaning they are more likely to experiment and take more risks.
Playfulness – When we are infused by dopamine after taking and fulfilling our curiosity, we are left with that happy and satisfied feeling. A natural relaxation and playfulness can be the after effect of this feeling. That playfulness allows us to let our guards down, build relationships with others and spread joy. Happiness shared and multiplied leaves a lasting impression on others and impacts company culture.
Curiosity when applied corporately allows us to flex our minds, build relationships and feel better overall. Step back from a conversation and allow yourself to imagine how else you could look at a situation or someone’s opinion and let the questions commence!