Step into an agency with curious, innovative employees and you can almost feel the energy and enthusiasm oozing out of the room. Then there are places that should be featured on The Walking Dead. You know what I mean; the air is stuffy and employees are basically zombies, mindlessly clicking away at their computers until it's time to leave. Yuck.
Curiosity isn’t just for three-year-olds. It’s a powerful skill to develop at work because it can promote innovative thinking, employee engagement, and, according to a 2014 study, prime our brains to learn better. And I'm not sure the advertising industry would last even single minute without curiosity, creativity and innovation pouring from its doors.
If your team isn't pushing the curiosity envelope - maybe they're too busy or believe they already are as curious as they can be - you can do a few small things to promote an environment of learning within your department.
Here are 3 ways to keep your employees curious:
1. Even the playing field
“Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work.”
Ignoring the ideas of entry- and mid-level employees in favor of senior leadership is like draining 40% of your idea pool. In my experience, some of the best ideas come from within the ranks. They look at things with fresh eyes and are the most eager to see change. This great spot was #1 on the 2016 Super Bowl Ad Meter and was concepted by a mid-level creative team (Woo hoo Jose and Carissa!).
Don't put the biggest projects solely in the hands of your most senior people (think about that during your next pitch). You might be surprised by those who spend every day in the trenches that may have some great ideas you hadn’t thought of. If you work to even the playing field, you expose everyone to the opportunity to be a creative contributor.
2. Create a classroom vibe
In school you probably had at least one teacher who said, “There is no such thing as a stupid question.” I’m betting that after hearing that, you felt a lot more comfortable putting your ideas forward because you knew you wouldn’t get ridiculed for it.
“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”
Replicate a learning culture by creating an environment that welcomes any kind of question or contribution at any time. You might be surprised what a difference even that small change can make. Gallup reports that more than 50% of employees who feel like they can go to their manager with any question are more likely to be engaged with their job (and don't get me started on how important engagement is for you and your team!).
3. Get out of their way
Protocols, procedures, processes. All those fancy “p” words that keep the cogs of a company turning every day can also completely destroy employee innovation.
“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.”
Allowing your team members the leeway to work in the ways that they see fit guarantees that you cultivate leaders not mindless followers. So get out of their way and let employees do their thing—they'll wind up being more curious on ways to solve the problem than checking the box on the process.
Doing your best to keep curiosity alive and kicking among your team is surely critical. People who are curious contribute more, collaborate more and feel that their ideas are truly valued (which means they stick around longer!). Exactly.