The Learning Organisation: Cultivating Curiosity
Did curiosity really kill the cat?
Or is a lack of it killing your people’s spirit?
Although our experiences should not define us, they can certainly shape our habits and our preferences. Particularly when it comes to our penchant for curiosity; a pre-requisite for learning.
From an early age, our ability to remember things is often shaped by heightened experiences. From touching a hot stove, to tasting certain foods. These physical experiences often leave lasting impressions.
What is not always so openly shared, are the experiences and events that leave us emotionally traumatised. These events, and the feelings we subconsciously attach to them, if unresolved can impact our pursuits and endeavours well into the future. And not in a positive way.
Let me tell you about a young boy whose sense of curiosity was shaken at a young age.
This particular boy’s earliest recollection of feeling less than, occurred whilst learning a second language. His mother’s native tongue, Hungarian.
As one of the most difficult languages to learn, he was not set up for success. His learning environment (the classroom), was not a level playing field, and he immediately felt out of his depth.
A huge red flag quickly morphed into a white flag.
He wanted to surrender. He wanted to give up.
The context was such that most, if not all of the other children in the class spoke the language in the home. Both parents were fluent. This was not the case for him.
Adding fuel to the fire was that his two older brothers were already far more advanced than he. I’ll always remember vividly this boy’s experience.
For this young boy was I.
The moral? When we relinquish our sense of curiosity, we become defeated.
Learning is indeed a partnership. A lifelong journey that most often benefits from the practice of reflection and application. It is cyclical.
There is a distinct relationship between the learner and their environment, and a strong correlation between the environment and results.
To thrive in learning environments, we must be mindful of the conditions in which we acquire knowledge. These conditions considerably impact how we are able to retain and apply this knowledge.
Think of your people’s ideas as fruit on a tree. To bear fruit, a tree must be nurtured. The quality of that fruit is highly dependent on the conditions in which it lives.
“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.”- Alexander Den Heijer
So why curiosity, and how is it relevant to a business?
Seeking understanding is innate in the human species from an early age. As children we are expected to ask questions, and be inquisitive. It fast tracks our development. When children are not eager to explore, it is a source of concern.
It is widely accepted that these formative years are an age of exploration in which we seek to understand the world around us. In an increasingly ever-changing world, why should we stop as adults?
The following points are some of the intrinsic benefits your organisation gains in championing the case for curiosity:
Benefits – The Why
1. With a strong association evident between curiosity and empathy, prioritising a culture of curiosity will build the level of compassion within your organisation. People become organically happier.
2. Strengthened relationships are a natural upside to curious cultures. Strong relationships inspire greater team performance, minimising unnecessary conflict.
3. Curious individuals are more likely to invest in themselves and integrate that value back into their working environments.
4. The ability to remain agile as an organisation comes largely from looking outside of the figurative four walls of a business. This is what curious people do frequently, and will ensure responsiveness to market trends.
5. People with a high CQ (curiosity quotient) will always look for ways to improve the business. They are innovators.
How can your organisation realise these great benefits? Below are some practical suggestions to embed curiosity into the fibre of your organisation — your people.
Fertilisation – The How
1. On boarding – One of the most effective ways to ensure a culture of inquisitive people is to integrate curiosity at the entry point. Building it into your screening process is a great way to measure the curiosity tendencies of prospective team members.
2. Live and Breathe – Values don’t live on a wall or inside an induction manual. They live inside each and every one of your people. Just like values, embedding a sense of curiosity requires leaders of an organisation to genuinely enquire. Meaningful conversations can then take place based on transparent responses.
3. Learning Goals – In reviewing performance, results are traditionally measured in the form of target vs. actual, with little focus learning’s taken to get there. By shifting the focus to unpack the resultant learning outcomes, you can actively support the growth of your people.
4. Expand Incentives – Rewards can be a great source of motivation for your people. Understanding that monetary rewards do not universally rank as the highest form of motivation and fulfilment is vital. Providing the opportunity for your people to grow through rich experiences such as travel and expanding networks helps to maintain an appetite for curiosity.
5. Structured Integration - If your organisation values curiosity, it is important to allocate time and resources to actively demonstrate this. This means scheduling your priorities. To fuel learning and discovery, specific time must be dedicated to hone the skills required for your people to ask great questions.
“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." - Walt Disney
Curiosity exists at an individual, team, and organisational level, however it begins with the individual. If we aren’t individually curious, there can be no ripple effect.
When we snuff out the candle of curiosity, we extinguish the flame of innovation.