Barriers to Creating a Culture of Curiosity

July 18, 2019by Sean Mullen

There’s resistance brewing in the workplace. The topic? Curiosity.

Creating a culture of curiosity propels companies forward. Yet leaders simply asking their teams to “be curious” isn’t going to cut it. There are six potential barriers that may be standing in the way of your company creating a curious work culture.

  1. Time

This is the most obvious barrier of the six. Time spent exploring can be seen as wasted time if it doesn’t produce useful ideas. When in actuality, the core to being curious starts with taking time to try new things. This also means many ideas will be thrown out, but that’s OK. I remind my young creatives in our department that 95 percent of their ideas will go into the garbage. We all need to be comfortable with that.

  1. Fear of Looking Dumb

It’s simple. We don’t want people to think less of us when we ask questions. We constantly want (and need) approval from our teams, peers and bosses. Asking “why?” and “what if?” makes you feel vulnerable and that can be extremely uncomfortable. And if you’re higher up in the company, you’re expected to KNOW and not ask. Corporate America puts higher value on answers rather than questions. But research shows people’s egos are boosted when they’re consulted and asked to give advice. That, in turn, leads them to think more highly of the people who’ve just boosted their ego. Asking questions is good for everyone involved!

  1. Expectations

If most people in an organization, especially those in leadership, are sending the message that they value things like time management, efficiency and productivity over exploring, learning and questioning, then even the most curious person is going to lose their curiosity. According to “Harvard Business Review,” people’s curiosity declined by 20 percent within six months at their new job. In other words, it’ll knock the curiosity out of someone, and quickly.

  1. Complacency

It takes a lot of courage and persistence to challenge the status quo, especially when it’s easier to be passive. For some people, it’s more natural to oblige than to question. People who are geared more toward expectations are going to have to try extra hard to do more than what they did last time.

  1. Process

It’s a double-edged sword. It can hold back curiosity as well as provide a boost to it. Many times, it works against curiosity as it creates a series of steps for someone to get from A to B to C and so on. The rigidity of a process may hinder the organic and sometimes messy nature of curiosity.

  1. Current State of Technology

With technology at our fingertips at all times, we are accustomed to fast answers. A Google search, however, doesn’t necessarily give you the best answer — just the popular answer. Curiosity demands thinkers, not regurgitators.

Find out how you can overcome these barriers and create conditions for curious people to thrive in an upcoming Blogworthy post.

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