13 Ways to Cultivate Curiosity in Your Team

Posted by Kristin Arnold on March 13, 2024

Curiosity in Your Team

I had a recent conversation with a colleague, Marilyn Sherman about the power of curiosity. (Check out the story that prompted the discussion here).

Sherman said, “It doesn’t take much to connect to others which has proven to increase trust. Simply be genuinely curious. You’d be surprised how quickly you can connect with another human being with seemingly nothing in common with you. THAT’S how you make an impact on the world, one connection at a time.”

When it comes to teams, curiosity is a powerful quality that inspires connection and conversation.  While some people might think it’s a “trait” where some people are simply more curious than others, I think it’s a skill you can build…and even cultivate within your team.

Ways to Cultivate Curiosity in Your Team

Here are strategies to cultivate curiosity in your team, organized for clarity and action:

Communicate the Importance of Curiosity

  1. Encourage Questions.  Regularly ask open-ended questions to stimulate thinking and exploration.
  2. Share Learning.  Encourage team members to share what they’ve learned from successes, failures, and everything in between.
  3. Set Learning Goals.  Alongside traditional performance goals, include objectives related to learning and exploration. Reward not just outcomes, but the process of inquiry and discovery.
  4. Access to Information.  Offer subscriptions to journals, databases, and other resources. Allow time for team members to explore these resources.
  5. Training Opportunities.  Share (and fund!) upcoming workshops or courses on creative thinking, critical analysis, and other skills that bolster curiosity.
  6. Challenges.  Regularly present your team with challenges that require them to seek out new knowledge or come up with innovative solutions.

Model Your Own Curious Behavior

  1. Lead by Example.  Demonstrate your own curiosity by asking questions, seeking feedback, and showing a genuine interest in learning from others.
  2. Share Your Learning Process. Talk about what you’re reading, experiments you’re interested in, or recent learnings, showing that curiosity is a continuous, valued process.
  3. Normalize Setbacks.  Emphasize that failure is part of learning and an opportunity for growth. Share your own failures and what you learned from them to destigmatize not having all the answers.
  4. Debate and Discussion Sessions.  Organize regular sessions where team members can discuss topics relevant to their work or industry trends, constructively challenging each other’s thinking.

Reinforce Others’ Curious Behaviors

  1. Recognize Curiosity.  Publicly acknowledge instances where curiosity led to positive outcomes, reinforcing its value.
  2. Cross-functional Collaboration.  Mix teams from different departments or backgrounds to solve problems, bringing varied perspectives and encouraging curiosity about different aspects of the business.
  3. Time for Exploration.  Allocate time for team members to pursue projects or research areas they’re curious about, even if they’re not directly related to their current tasks.

A simple yet powerful question to ask your teammates is “What are you working on today and what’s getting in the way?”  It’s a question that sparks conversation without judgment and provides an opening for brainstorming ideas to overcome challenges – or even an offer of help.

By cultivating curiosity in your team, you are creating an environment that values questions, encourages diverse thinking, and sees failure as a learning opportunity.  Building curiosity as a skill within a team can significantly enhance problem-solving, innovation, and adaptability.

Related Articles:

Be Curious in Approaching Team Conflict

How to Create an Environment for Innovation to Flourish

Effective Teams Require a Creative, Comfortable Environment

KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.

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