By Elisabeth Goodman, 8th October 2018
Francesca Gino’s article on “The business case for curiosity”, in the September-October issue of Harvard Business Review (pp. 48-57) is my source of inspiration for this issue of our bi-monthly newsletter.
The newsletter also includes details of our remaining scheduled courses for 2018, and some early plans for 2019.
Francesca Gino’s article has lots of great fact and data from surveys and studies and case studies – which make the article a fascinating read should anyone wish to take a look for themselves.
I’ve pulled out the conclusions under three main headings: how curiosity leads to better performance, the barriers that can get in the way of curiosity, and how to encourage greater curiosity at work.
Greater curiosity leads to better performance
Curiosity in practice equates to an interest in new ideas, learning and development, continuous improvement, creativity and innovation.
Individual team members and leaders who demonstrate curiosity in these ways are more likely to:
- Be more collaborative as they listen to and build on each others’ ideas
- Demonstrate less un-constructive* conflict (for the same reasons)
- Gain more trust and respect from their colleagues
- Make more effective decisions (as they consider a wider range of alternatives)
- Enhance their personal (or ‘soft’) and technical skills
- Better position their organisation for success
[*We at RiverRhee strongly believe in the value and power of constructive conflict as a way of encouraging the open exchange of ideas, feelings and opinions – as described in this blog “Conflict is the lifeblood of high performing organisations”]
The barriers that can get in the way of curiosity
As with so many things, a leader or manager can easily discourage curiosity by their behaviour towards it
A leader or manager will put barriers in the way of curiosity if they are overly concerned about:
- Timelines and efficiency
- Avoiding potential chaos or conflict
How to encourage greater curiosity at work
And so a leader can do much to create a culture of greater curiosity at work.
Managers and leaders can role-model curiosity
A manager or leader who asks questions. listens to and acknowledges what others have to say will demonstrate what it is to be curious. This, rather than telling, is likely to lead to trust and respect from others. It’s OK to not know the answer, especially if that is followed-up with a desire to find out and learn from others.
Managers and leaders can give individuals the time and resources to explore
Key performance indicators are important drivers of performance, but so is the opportunity to learn and be creative. If individuals and organisations are focused solely on meeting deadlines, there will be little scope for reflection, exploration and innovation.
Francesca Gino quotes Ford’s and Toyota’s approaches to process improvement and one of the principles that we teach is that it should be used to free up people’s time for reflection and creativity.
Dan Pink also emphasises the importance of giving people time to explore to satisfy their motivational need for autonomy and mastery. (See Motivation – a refresher… eight years on..) Some organisations go as far as giving people a periodic creativity day when they can do this. Or they pay for learning and development opportunities that might be outside the immediate scope of the employees current role.
Hire for curiosity
There are some suggestions for how to do this in the HBR article:
- Ask the interviewee about their interests outside work. What they enjoy reading or learning about can be a good indicator of curiosity – especially it this goes beyond their area of expertise
- Assess them on their collaborative skills as well as the depths of their skills (described as ‘T-shaped” skills by IDEO. The horizontal stroke is the collaborative capability which should include empathy and curiosity. The vertical stroke is the depth of skill.)
- Listen to the questions that the candidate asks – especially if these go beyond questions on the immediate role – as another indicator of curiosity.
- Administer a curiosity assessment (of which apparently there are many validated examples…)
(We have more tips on the interview process in our training on Recruitment and Interview skills.)
Teach and encourage people to ask ‘Why?’ and ‘How could we?’
The ‘5 Why’s’ that we teach in our Lean and Six Sigma training echoes one of Francesca Gino’s recommendations. We also teach managers on our management training courses the value of asking open questions to promote the sharing of ideas by their direct reports.
“How could we?” is a great way of engaging people in finding ways to address problems – and one that Ludo Chapman of The Innovation Practice use in a recent strategy and team building event that I co-facilitated with him.
Create an environment that supports curiosity
We know that people learn and explore in different ways. Some people do so more through individual research and reflection, others do so through their interactions with others.
Francesca Gino puts more emphasis on the latter: giving people the opportunity to network with others, creating collaborative working spaces, promoting cross-training. We also believe that people need the opportunity for individual reflection, and encourage our delegates to find creative ways of scheduling such opportunities into their agendas.
For those on a management journey:
- Introduction to Management (11th-13th December). An in-depth three-day course for those who are new to management or have been doing it for some time
- Transition to Leadership* For those moving into a leadership role
- One-day Supervisors’ course (10th January 2019). If all you want is one day of training to get you started
- Coaching Skills for Managers (11th June 2019) To further develop your coaching skills
- Recruitment and Interview Skills* Essential skills for managers involved in the recruitment process
For day-to-day process and project management:
- Introduction to Lean and Six Sigma (6th November). Explore how you can gain up to 20% savings by improving your processes
- Introduction to Project Management (8th November). All the basics for managing your projects effectively
For essential capability and confidence building skills in other aspects of your work:
- Effective Influencing and Communication*.
- First steps in selling (7th November). Building effective relationships with your customers when selling is not necessarily your thing
- Presentation skills (13th November).
- Managing change (15th November). How to deal with and lead change in your organisation
* Please enquire for dates in 2019.
All of RiverRhee’s courses can be scheduled on demand, either to run in-house for your company, or to publicise as an open course for other delegates. We can also explore most topics in one-to-one coaching sessions.
Do get in touch if you would like to find out more about RiverRhee, and how we can help you to create exceptional managers and teams. See the RiverRhee Consulting website or e-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Elisabeth on 07876 130 817.