Work Smarter//

Fostering Your Curiosity Can Lead to Success and Happiness at Work — Here’s How

The CEO of SurveyMonkey shares his tips for encouraging curiosity at work and why it matters.

stock_colors/Getty Images
stock_colors/Getty Images

Once you’ve been working at the same job for a while, what once seemed new and challenging can lose its sheen, becoming second nature and habitual, rather than exciting. You’re not necessarily in a rut, but could definitely benefit from a little inspiration — often in the form of accessing your curiosity.

When Zander Lurie took the helm of SurveyMonkey as CEO, less than a year after the passing of one of his closest friends (and previous CEO of the company) Dave Goldberg, he started by taking inventory of the values that are important to employees and customers, and one word came up consistently: curiosity, he writes in the Harvard Business Review.

This makes sense given that SurveyMonkey is a tool to help us understand and apply what other people think. The feedback from customers and employees pointed to a set of behaviors that define curiosity: asking good questions, listening deeply, being open-minded, valuing new experiences, challenging the status quo, and staying keenly aware that no one has all the answers, Lurie writes.

Following these survey results and conversations, Lurie decided to focus on cultivating curiosity in the workplace. And the truth is, anyone can benefit from tapping into their curiosity at work. Here are three lessons from Lurie on how to foster curiosity so it leads to happiness and success at work:

Encourage people to ask questions

You’re used to being prompted to ask questions — in school, at the end of presentations at the office, or after someone teaches you a new skill. But how often do you actually take advantage of that? It’s easy to remain silent when someone asks if you have any questions, or hope that someone else will ask your question for you, but that’s a missed opportunity for sparking curiosity.

At SurveyMonkey, for example, Lurie writes that not only are questions encouraged at the weekly town hall meetings, they also have a “question of the week” pulled from employees’ surveys. Telling someone they asked a “great question” is one of the highest forms of praise at the company. He also ensures that a question-asking culture is the norm by being open to asking and answering questions himself. “Asking people what matters to them — the heart of curiosity — leads to unexpected answers,” Lurie points out. Try this with your own team — you never know what you’ll learn, and what new ideas the conversation may generate.

Create a diverse team

If everyone looks, acts, and thinks the same way, a company may be overlooking entire viewpoints and ideas that could be hugely beneficial for everyone. Keep this in mind if you recruit or hire for your team. Lurie believes that “a diversity of people leads to better ideas and greater curiosity” — and practices what he preaches by assembling a diverse board of directors and senior executive team. Regardless of your position, be sure to engage everyone in discussions and decisions — your team will be stronger as a result.   

Make curiosity a priority

Because curiosity typically happens spontaneously, it may seem counterintuitive to try and make it a priority. But it doesn’t have to feel forced: The idea is to create a work environment that encourages creativity as much as possible, giving people the opportunity to lean into questions or ideas that may be bouncing around in their head. Lurie likens curiosity to a muscle, with its strength eventually eroding if it is not used frequently enough. “Being curious requires space and time, and it can be pushed to the bottom of your priority list when life gets too busy,” Lurie says. “But we believe that curiosity helps employees engage more deeply in their work, generate new ideas, and share those ideas with others.”

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