Despite the benefits that developing curiosity brings to organizations and which we discussed in a previous article
, it is boycotted even from within. This is not because leaders or employees do not see its value. On the contrary, both are aligned when it comes to recognizing the merits of curiosity and consider it a catalyst for job satisfaction, motivation, innovation and high performance.
But the practice seems to tell a different story…
It is true that there are companies such as 3M, Facebook, Google that offer employees free time to develop personal projects, but these situations are exceptions rather than a rule. And… even within these companies, performance goals are often consuming this free time which employees could use to explore alternatives or come up with innovative ideas.
Two tendencies prevent leaders from encouraging curiosity.
They have the wrong mindset about the research process.
Leaders often believe that letting employees follow their curiosity will result in unimportant results at a too high cost. In a survey
conducted by Dr. Francesca Gino, a researcher specialized in the study of behavior, on a sample of 520 specialists in the field of training and development, it was found that they often avoid encouraging curiosity because they believe that it would be harder for the organization to manage if employees were allowed to explore their own interests. They also believe that disagreements would arise, decision-making and implementation would be slowed down and costs would increase.
In addition, research shows that although creativity is considered a goal by many, creative ideas are often rejected. On the one hand, it is understandable. Any desire to explore alternatives starts from questioning the status quo, an aspect that does not always generate useful information. But, at the same time, it means not being satisfied with the first possible solution and constantly believing that there are better ideas.
Look for efficiency at the expense of exploration.
In the early 1900s, Henry Ford focused all his efforts on one goal: reducing production costs to invent a car for everyone. He managed to achieve this goal in a short time – in 1908 – by introducing the T model. Demand grew so much that by 1921 the company came to have a market share in the United States of no less than 56% of car products. This remarkable success was made possible primarily by Ford’s efficiency-focused business model. As the U.S. economy grew and consumers began to want a greater variety of cars, Ford, still focused on efficiency and determined to improve exclusively the Model T, lost ground to competitors such as General Motors, which began producing various models. Soon, they expanded their market share by dethroning Ford. Ford’s mistake was to stop experimenting and innovating and lag behind.
How come we don’t suffer like Ford?
Encouraging curiosity is a long-term investment because when we are curious, we look at difficult situations more creatively.
Trends explain why the level of curiosity decreases when we have been in a job for too long. In a study conducted by Dr. Francesca Gino on a sample of 250 people who had recently started working for various companies, a series of questions were asked to measure their curiosity. Initial levels of curiosity varied, but after 6 months, in a follow-up survey conducted on the same sample, there was an average decrease of 20%. The explanation lies in the fact that people under pressure to complete their work have less time to ask questions about processes or objectives.
In the context in which “ideas have become the current currency of the new economy”, creativity will become one of the most sought after skills in the business environment, on which the performance of a company will depend. More than ever, it has its place in the organization and can be trained and developed to a great extent. Its development, however, depends equally on both the individual and the organization, the latter being able to favor or suffocate it. But we will talk about how we let go of curiosity to encourage creativity in a future article.