Professional curiosity: not just a nice to have anymore

Halleluja. A new boost for the relevance of curiosity for business purposes.

Business thrives when curiosity does

With the summer holiday over, it is high time for educators and managers to pay serious attention to their employees (and students). My mission to convey the message on the importance of curiosity got a nice boost with the publication of results of the research of professor Francesca Gino.

Cover of Harvard Business Review — Sept/Oct 2018

You can read the full results here, but for your convenience a brief summary of the key points below:

Curiosity is generally acknowledged to be a useful skill but in practice — when push comes to shove — fear takes over and curiosity in practice is not encouraged.

The main findings from the research with regards to the direct positive business effects of actively encouraging curiosity, and acting on it:

  • Better (financial) performance
  • Higher quality decisions (because less bias)
  • Improves collaboration
  • Increases innovative behaviour
  • and of course all of this positively influenced each other

The main observed barriers for managers to allow these benefits to materialise are a mis-perception of the consequences, i.e., a messy unmanageable jungle. This is often exacerbated by valuing the short term or the holy grail of certain efficiency to such an extent that anything unknown is seen too much of a risk.

One conducive factor for the benefits to materialise is a culture and that revolves around learning and includes learning goals alongside performance goals. A general word of advice is to create conditions that encourage a broad and diverse pallet of perspectives (= curious) rather than a focused one (= efficient). This aspect aligns very nicely with my academic work. Not a coincidence, I suspect

And now on to action?

The articles gives practical and actionable advice. The article struck an immediate chord with me because there is virtually no room for any light shining between the intention and results of the research and my own vision, labelled as The New ABC . If this triggered your curiosity, you can read on here. You’ll learn soon enough what this new ABC stands for.