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Get Business Smart - The value of curiosity

This week, we explore the notion of curiosity, and why it is crucial for business.

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Get Business Smart - The value of curiosity

  1. 1. GET BUSINESS SMART The value of curiosity
  2. 2. GET BUSINESS SMART The value of curiosity In the context of the fast-shifting business landscape, the ability to ‘adapt’ and be ‘agile’ are often referred to as key business challenges, both within advertising and across industries. The State of Curiosity (2018) report by science and technology company, Merck, finds that: “The most successful organizations are those that not only survive, but also thrive, in uncertain, rapidly-evolving times. They nurture working environments that encourage continuous learning and exploration to help them adapt.”1 The ability to be flexible and open-minded is highly valued, but rarely discussed in relation to ‘curiosity’, despite it being a crucial and directly associated trait. Continuous learning is by definition curiosity: curiosity is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘a strong desire to learn or know something.’2 No wonder then, that Merck’s report found that: “The best employees are curious. They are learners, constantly discovering new and better ways of doing things.”3 If business success depends on organizations’ ability to evolve, which in turn is driven by learning and exploration, then curiosity is fundamental for business. AN INNOVATION CULTURE In 2018 Harvard Business Review interviewed 1,000 business leaders in different sectors, asking “what makes an innovation culture?” The leading answer for every sector was encouraging and rewarding curiosity.4 Indeed, curiosity drives us forward: curious employees are more adaptable, resourceful, and innovative. It makes sense that curiosity is linked to innovation: whilst knowledge is a passive state of mind, curiosity is an active one. This is backed up by research. The State of Curiosity report found that 84% of workers from the US, Germany, and China felt that curious colleagues were most likely to bring an idea to life at work.5 1 The State of Curiosity. Merck Group. 2018. Link 2 https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/curiosity 3 The State of Curiosity. Merck Group. 2018. Link 4 As above. 5 As above.
  3. 3. GET BUSINESS SMART The value of curiosity AN EMPATHETIC CULTURE As well as making us active and proactive, the desire to learn is often driven by being genuinely interested. This fuels engagement with the world and people around us, which is as important in the workplace as it is at home with family or friends, as BBDO China’s campaign for Roundtable for Cancer China acknowledges. The campaign, ‘Knowing Nothing’, uses the corporate visual language of graphs and pie charts to illustrate uncomfortable truths around mental health. This effectively makes the point that regardless of how much you think you know about someone when they are part of a big data set, in reality you very little, or nothing, about them as a person.6 ‘Knowing Nothing’ encourages people to be curious about their colleagues, and businesses to be accountable for the wellbeing of their employees. The campaign illustrates how curiosity and indeed, empathy are good for both people and business. A CREATE-IT-YOURSELF CULTURE Curiosity is valued differently depending on age, country, and occupation. For example, a survey found that 46% of Scientific R&D employees identified as being highly curious, significantly higher than employees in all other sectors, whilst 66% of Scientific R&D employees are in high agreement that investing in curiosity to drive innovation is a sound investment.7 Curiosity also varies between organization size (37% of employees working in large organizations are highly curious compared to 20% in micro-sized organizations), suggesting that larger companies have the resources and therefore greater ability of nurturing curiosity.8 As Harvard Business School professor Francesco Gino notes, the abundance of curiosity which children demonstrate illustrates it is a natural, instinctive state of mind, which is diminished by age.9 Age hampers curiosity as it brings with it a learned sense of embarrassment of not knowing – businesses can be confident that curiosity is something which can be encouraged and therefore created, most obviously by nurturing a tolerant environment which encourages asking questions. 6 Knowing Nothing by BBDO. The Drum. 2019. Link 7 As above, 8 As above. 9 The Power of Curiosity. Harvard Business Review. 2018. Link
  4. 4. GET BUSINESS SMART The value of curiosity THE VALUE OF CURIOSITY Encouraging curiosity is in businesses’ best interests, not simply because of the direct implications, but because of other closely associated, valuable character traits: “The highly curious demonstrating qualities, such as being organized, collaborative, and detail-oriented themselves—[are] all traits required for high-performance.”10 In summary, curiosity is instinctive, but often stamped out by our environment. Businesses should be incentivized to encourage curiosity in their employees, on the grounds it is strongly linked to agility, problem solving, innovation, creativity; characteristics which businesses have never needed more. If you are interested in learning more about the subject of this article, please contact Sophie Meadows, Insights Manager, meadowss@bbdoknows.com ABOUT BBDO KNOWS BBDO KNOWS is a planning resource for the BBDO network. BBDO KNOWS offers thinking, strategy, insights and inspiration on key categories, key themes and consumer segments. If you are interested in learning more about the way BBDO thinks please contact Melanie Norris, Global Planning Director, norrism@bbdoknows.com. DISCLAIMER The information and materials in this article are for general information purposes only. Whilst we try to ensure that all information and data in this article is accurate, complete and up to date, this article should not be relied upon and you should seek advice if you intend to use or rely upon any of the insights or data contained in this article. This article must not be shared, downloaded, copied or distributed for commercial purposes without the prior approval of BBDO. © BBDO 2019 All rights reserved. 10 The State of Curiosity. Merck Group. 2018. Link