Capitalising on curiosity: How inquisitiveness affects your bottom line

Curiosity might have killed the cat but it can also improve employee engagement

Capitalising on curiosity: How inquisitiveness affects your bottom line

To be curious is to be human - it’s a trait integrated within us at birth. Now, research has revealed that companies that harness the natural curiosity contained within humanity experience major benefits such as a significant increase of employee engagement.

“There is a lot of research to suggest that creative and innovative cultures co-relate very strongly with engagement and with people being very motivated at work,” Dr Amantha Imber, organisational psychologist and founder of behavioural science consultancy Inventium, said. “So, encouraging people to be creative, inquisitive, and look in all sorts of places for answers, rather than doing things like they have always done them, will aid in improving engagement and morale.”

‘Capitalising on Curiosity’, a survey of senior business leaders and employees commissioned by SAP, found that leaders who strongly agree that their organisation has a curious culture, saw annual turnover growth of 20.52% on average over the last 12 months; more than three times the six per cent average growth in turnover experienced by those who only somewhat agree.

Business leaders at large organisations that are very curious report turnover growth that is 10.67% higher than those who are not very curious, which could deliver additional growth of $2.5 million in annual turnover, based on ABS turnover data for businesses of this size. Medium-sized organisations that are very curious could see an extra $1.7 million and small businesses an additional $550,000 in annual turnover.

So, what can companies do to encourage curiosity in the workplace?

“Firstly, leaders can encourage employees to challenge the status quo and ask, ‘What if there was a different or better way of doing things?’, Dr Imber added. “Secondly, if applicable, encourage employees to get more customer-focused by going out and asking questions of their customers – observing their current processes with critical thought will unearth opportunities to improve the customer experience. Finally, challenge your employees to run experiments and test their ideas as opposed to getting attached to the status quo.”

More than eight in 10 (82%) of senior business leaders believe a culture of curiosity is important for their organisation to adapt and grow in a post-COVID world but only four in 10 (44%) strongly agree their organisation has a curious culture.

The most common challenges senior business leaders say they would be better equipped to handle with a more curious culture are employee engagement (41%), being able to adapt to changing market needs (40%) and dealing with staff retention (36%).

Despite the positive link between curiosity and business growth, four out of five employees (82%) say there are barriers to asking questions and being curious in their organisation. More than eight in ten (85%) of senior business leaders across the country feel the same, admitting that talk about encouraging curiosity is not always supported by action.

“Creating and nurturing a culture of curiosity in an organisation takes time, but ultimately it will strengthen your ability to be agile, adapt and innovate,” Dr Imber said. “At a time when businesses are experiencing more uncertainty from the pandemic, fostering a curious culture can be hard but it’s essential to build resilience and drive growth.

“Resourcing is a big one. If people don’t have the time to be curious, ask questions, and think creatively, then curiosity simply will not materialise. There also needs to be support from leaders, who embody the culture of curiosity by walking the talk; they need to be good role models when it comes to curiosity and be seen as people who are always asking questions and looking for new and better ways of doing things. If these factors are present, then curiosity will thrive.”

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