How to Inspire Curiosity in Your Team

by Alton Zenon III
March 23, 2020

A company all-hands in Russia, an exercise that requires employees to face their fears, interview tests designed to identify an applicant’s inherent curiosity: these are just a few of the tactics Austin leaders use to spark bold thinking in their teams. 

A curious workforce produces innovative work. Professor Francesca Gino made a compelling argument for its value in her 2018 Harvard Business Review article, “The Business Case for Curiosity.” According to Gino, curiosity can reduce errors in the decisions we make and spur innovation. Additionally, curiosity can help deter group conflict, boost communication and augment performance.

The specific methods company leaders take to inspire their employees can vary wildly. However, many team leaders in Austin agree that developing trust is an important part of getting direct reports to tap into their creativity. Giving employees agency to solve challenges on their own creates the trust that empowers them to take risks. 

With over 15 years of experience leading HR teams, Kathryn Pace of Kendra Scott said employees are encouraged to ask questions and take risks when they feel safe and aren’t concerned with failure or critical feedback. 

Creating a culture of curiosity starts at the top, she said, and collecting frequent feedback is one way company leaders can get a pulse on what inspires their team. 

 

Kendra Scott team
kendra scott

Taking risks can lead to growth, and employees are routinely encouraged to do so at Kendra Scott. Pace said rather than letting fear of failure stand in the way, their employees are encouraged to adjust their mindsets, face their fears and constantly look for learning opportunities. 

 

How do you create a culture of curiosity?

One of the most impactful things we’ve done is provide training on the concept of a growth mindset. The goal is to create a sense of safety for our employees to take risks and continuously grow. Rather than ruminate in failure, critical feedback or fear of change, we encourage them to get curious. We want employees to ask questions, adjust their mindset and always look for the opportunity to learn. 

We encourage recognizing and celebrating effort in addition to results.”

 

What are some things you do to inspire curiosity in your team?

One of the most powerful ways we reinforce this concept is by practicing it ourselves. As an organization, we are continuously seeking feedback from our employees and our customers to reflect on what we can do better. 

We also encourage an activity called “flip it.” This exercise is intended to help employees recognize when they’re in a fixed mindset and change gears by getting curious about their fears and reservations. Finally, we encourage recognizing and celebrating effort in addition to results. 

 

SecureLink team
securelink

The funnel of curiosity can start at the leadership level and work its way down to the interview process. This pathway is one Chief Growth Officer Paul Dodd works to facilitate within SecureLink. Dodd seeks feedback on how he can grow as a leader, embodying the spirit of curiosity for his team. And to ensure his team is staffed with creative employees, he’s added a series of particular questions to interviews. 

 

How do you create a culture of curiosity?

I have implemented a number of initiatives to find curious people and to cultivate a growth mindset. For example, in the interview process we have several tests and behavior questions that are designed to uncover the level of curiosity a person has and their openness to becoming more curious. 

I strive to be a role model of curiosity.”

 

What are some things you do to inspire curiosity in your team?

One of my favorite statements is “tell me more” because I always want feedback. What areas are potential blindspots for me? What am I doing well that I should do more of? Feedback is tough but necessary. You aren’t going to progress from “good” to “great” if you aren’t getting genuine and frequent feedback, and curiosity is the cornerstone of that.

I strive to be a role model of curiosity while publicly recognizing those who are also demonstrating that trait. To assist in making curiosity part of our daily practice, I rolled out development practices like role playing sessions, feedback training at our quarterly business reviews and weekly one-on-one coaching. 

 

Adaction Interaction
adaction interactive

Matt Ranta said it’s important to give employees agency, allowing them to tap into their own expertise and find solutions. With over 20 years of management experience, the VP of business development at AdAction Interactive said a lack of hand-holding can help staff members feel valued and encouraged to take risks.

 

How do you create a culture of curiosity?

I think you need to do a few things to allow curiosity to permeate your workplace. First, show that teammates are trusted by empowering them to find answers. Refrain from telling them specifically what to do for every task if you’re in a leadership position. Additionally, managers have to be curious and ask questions, teach themselves and share the interesting things they learn with coworkers. Finally, I think it’s necessary to allow for failure and encourage risk-taking. 

Show that teammates are trusted by empowering them to find answers.”

 

What are some things you do to inspire curiosity in your team?

I try to ask as many or more questions than I give statements, answers or opinions. I share podcasts, books and webinars with my co-workers that are interesting, relevant to our work or where a parallel in thinking might occur. And our teams often share event invites across all groups. 

 

Miro team
miro

Building a team of people with diverse skill sets, interests and backgrounds lays the foundation for creativity. This hiring mentality is one Miro Senior Account Manager Andrew Reese said the company practices. And employees have the perfect opportunity to learn from each other at Miro’s annual all-hands in Russia.

 

How do you create a culture of curiosity? 

Creating a culture of curiosity starts with hiring people who are driven by the desire to go to sleep each night knowing more than when they woke up. We focus on the “why” of the company instead of the “what” of an individual job. We build teams with diverse skills, passions and backgrounds to foster an environment where employees organically challenge and learn from each other. 

People build relationships across departments, collaborate and share ideas.”

 

What are some things you do to inspire curiosity in your team?

Every year, the whole organization comes together in Russia to recap our year and align on our strategy moving forward. People build relationships across departments, collaborate and share ideas, challenges, and goals to create a better path forward. Our employees have the opportunity to get involved in initiatives across the company based on the merit of their ideas, not their titles or pedigrees. 

 

MVF team
mvf

Asking questions is one of the most fundamental aspects of being a curious professional in tech. No one has all the answers and Sam Lastovich, sales manager at MVF, said leaders should encourage their employees to ask questions at every level. Curiosity can close knowledge gaps and create a work environment based on trust. 

 

How do you create a culture of curiosity?

It starts with the people we hire. We look for candidates that are naturally curious and have demonstrated this by learning new things in and outside of work. Beyond that, we aim to have a flat org structure that encourages everyone to ask questions of anyone else, including our CEO. 

We begin each day with a stand-up focused on our goals, which is also an open forum for other team members to ask questions or offer advice. Then we finish the day with a roundup of the biggest wins or challenges we faced.

We aim to have a flat org structure that encourages everyone to ask questions.”

 

What are some things you do to inspire curiosity in your team?

We actively try to get to know each other better personally through team socials, lunches and happy hours. These events foster curiosity because we can ask more in-depth questions about one another’s lives, which allows us to feel more comfortable asking questions at work without a fear of feeling dumb.

 

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