The Power of Curiosity: The Antidote for Complacency

By: Ron Bower

It has become painfully clear to me that the cure for a complacent organization is a daily dose of curiosity!

Sometimes it seems as if there’s a word that we’ve known forever, and rarely use, that begins to pop up everywhere. Then, all of a sudden, that overly common word takes on a new power and energy. That word for me this year has been “curiosity.”

Sometimes it shows up in a positive way to describe an attribute that helps drive a strong culture. That tends to sound like this:

  • “We only hire curious people.”

  • “Curious employees are the core differentiator that drives the success of our business.”

Sometimes it shows up in a more negative way to describe what is missing in a culture, department, or individual that is just flat-out complacent. Phrases like this start to show up in ways such as:

  • “We seem to be satisfied with the way it’s always been.”

  • “What we need around here are more people that are curious and fewer people that are coasting through with just enough effort to not get fired.”

All of this leads me to today’s closer look at curiosity: what is it, why we should hire for it, and how we use it to counter the negative implications of complacency. We need to treat the competency of curiosity with the same seriousness as we do accountability, communication, and a drive for results.

Exploring Curiosity

At its core, curiosity is the intense desire to know or learn something. It's that inner drive that pushes us to question, explore, and understand the world around us. It's the spark that ignites the fires, the drive behind every great discovery, and the motivation for every innovation.

"The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity." – Dorothy Parker

Why Hire for Curiosity?

  1. Promotes Continuous Learning: Curious individuals are always seeking to learn and grow. They are not content with the status quo and constantly look for new ways to improve and adapt.

  2. Enhances Problem-Solving Abilities: Curious minds don't accept things at face value. They dig deeper, ask questions, and view challenges from multiple perspectives. This analytical mindset is invaluable in addressing complex business challenges. According to a report by the World Economic Forum, complex problem-solving will be one of the top skills required by 2025.

  3. Fuels Innovation: Curiosity leads to exploration, which can result in groundbreaking innovations. It’s the curious individuals who often ask, “What if?” or “Why not?” leading to novel ideas and solutions. A Harvard Business Review study found that curious individuals generate 20% more ideas than their less curious counterparts.

  4. Facilitates Improved Communication: Curious people genuinely want to understand others. This results in better listening, empathy, and ultimately, more effective communication. Research from the University of California found that curious people have better interpersonal relationships and connect better with others, leading to more productive team dynamics.

  5. Counters Complacency: Curiosity is the natural enemy of complacency. While complacency makes individuals stagnant and resistant to change, curiosity pushes them to constantly evolve, adapt, and look for better ways of doing things. A study from Gallup found that companies that promote curiosity and continuous learning among their employees see a 33% higher employee retention rate.

"Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning." – William Arthur Ward

The Impact of Curiosity on Organizations

Complacency is a silent killer in the workplace. When teams become comfortable with the status quo, they stop looking for new opportunities or ways to improve. This can lead to stagnation, decreased productivity, and even the downfall of a once-thriving organization.

In stark contrast, curiosity is ever-evolving. Curious individuals and teams are always on the lookout for better ways of doing things, new opportunities, and novel solutions to old problems. They are constantly challenging the norm and pushing boundaries. They believe that there is always more than one right answer and that the root cause is always the problem to solve.

While complacent staff is content with "what is," and love to lean into “this is the way we’ve always done it,” curious team members strive to discover:

  • "What could be?"

  • “What are the possibilities?”

  • “There is always a better way!“

“If you want to build a curious organization, then only hire people that are curious.” Me

If you want to hire people that are curious, then ask them meaningful interview questions that allow them to provide you with real examples of how their curiosity has positively impacted their workplace. If you need an affordable solution to generate custom interview guides about curiosity, and 67 other core competencies, that will provide you with over 2000 interview questions…then just click here.

Let’s each do our part to make sure that curiosity begins to make its way to the top of the list of most used competencies. What are you waiting for? Don’t just sit there…go do something about it!