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Curiosity is an Essential Ingredient for Achieving Employee Engagement

Posted by Insightlink on 04/20/15

 How does curiosity have anything to do with employee engagement?

It begins with fear. Fear stops us in our tracks and blinds us to possibilities. Having the courage to overcome our fears sounds like a plan but what is the actual means to overcoming those fears and how do we actually put that concept into action? Author Warren Berger spent time with Brian Grazer, reputed to be one of the most successful producers in Hollywood to find out what is the source of his inspiration and discovered curiosity is his greatest asset. “Curiosity is what gives energy and insight to everything else I do” writes Grazer in his new book A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life. Grazer explains that his penchant for wondering and questioning has consistently led him to new ideas and fresh opportunities, while also helping him to overcome fears, broaden his thinking, and become a better manager of others.

Manager of Others?
How does curiosity effect how we manage others and how does this have anything to do with employee engagement? Walt Disney claimed curiosity was a key to his company’s success, “Curiosity keeps us moving forward, opening new doors and doing new things because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

According to Grazer curiosity helps us get comfortable with being uncomfortable and in a work environment it helps to be able to tackle new tasks and overcome the fear of failure.

Here are Grazer’s tips and 3 ways to tap into your natural curiosity and apply it in ways that can help you be a better manager and inspire yourself and your employees.

1. Use curiosity to broaden your horizons and discover new possibilities. How do you find great problems to solve and stories to tell? By getting out of your bubble and exploring the wider world around you with open eyes and ears plus a receptive mind. There are infinite ways to do this; Grazer does it via his "curiosity conversations." On a regular biweekly basis, he arranges to have a talk with someone outside his domain (over the years, he has chatted with everyone from Andy Warhol and Jonas Salk to Steve Jobs and Barack Obama). "I don’t sit in my office, gazing out the windows at Beverly Hills, waiting for movie ideas to float into my field of vision," Grazer writes. "I talk to other people. I seek out their perspective and experience and stories, and by doing that I multiply my own experience a thousandfold."
Having a broad perspective and a wide knowledge base is particularly valuable in today’s multi-disciplinary work environments, where "T-shaped people," whose skills and knowledge run wide as well as deep, tend to fare well. In terms of broadening one’s interests and being open to many new perspectives, this is where wide-open diversive curiosity can be quite useful, as long as it’s combined with more focused, epistemic curiosity. Let your curiosity range far afield, but also know when it’s time to dig into a patch of fertile ground.

2. Use curiosity as a self-motivating force.
In his book, Grazer talks about how curiosity helps him overcome fear and break out of ruts. "It does that by getting you comfortable with being a little uncomfortable," he writes. When undertaking something potentially risky, "I try to set aside my fear long enough to start asking questions. The questions do two things; they distract me from the queasy feeling, and I learn something about what I’m worried about."
In my research, I learned that asking questions of oneself can be surprisingly motivational: Embarking on a difficult task by first inquiring, "How might I actually do this?" can be more effective than just ordering yourself to do it. I also found that asking yourself certain questions can help to overcome fear of failure. Part of the reason self-questioning works is that it sparks your own curiosity—and tends to get your mind quickly working on possible strategies and solutions to the challenge at hand.

3. Use curiosity to inspire and lead others.
If you share your passionate interests and questions with those around you, it can spark their interest. We tend to think of curiosity as a trait—i.e., you’re either highly curious or you’re not—but author Leslie notes that is more of a state, and that it waxes or wanes depending on circumstance. Studies cited in Leslie’s book show that curiosity seems to flourish in environments where questioning is modeled and encouraged.
Hence, "If you’re the boss, and you manage by asking questions, you’re laying the foundation for the culture of your company or your group," according to Grazer. He notes that a leader should strive to foster a culture of inquiry wherein people at all levels are asking each other questions. "That helps break down the barriers between job functions and also helps puncture the idea that the job hierarchy determines who can have a good idea."

The best thing about curiosity? It's contagious.

From an employee perspective, a team infected by curiosity will foster a positive work environment which will lead to increased levels of employee engagement and job satisfaction.
It is important to know what kind of work environment is being fostered for your employees in case there is a problem and the only way to know for certain is to measure it. We have helped thousands of organizations make changes and we would love to help yours. To find out how our survey can measure engagement in your organization and provide you with the diagnostics to see what change is needed, give us a call at 866-802-8095 ext. 705 or send us an email at

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