How to Inspire Curiosity in Your Team, Part I

March 19, 2020

Boredom in the workplace is dangerous. Akin to burnout, boredom happens when employees feel they’ve plateaued in their position, yet are settled enough that they’re unmotivated to make changes. A survey of nearly 400 employees by OfficeTeam reported that workers feel bored about 10.5 hours per week, which can result in uninspired, unmotivated and uninteresting work.

To fight boredom, managers across Colorado look for new ways to inspire curiosity among their team members through company lunch-and-learns and community groups. For these companies, it’s important to break out of standard routines. At Sovrn, CTO Jesse Demmel said they provide the space and resources for curious employees to explore their passions.

“We tell our people to ‘learn like it’s their job.’ We support that goal with quarterly innovation weeks focused on exploring new ideas, brown bag meetings that let us share new ideas and collaboration,” Demmel said.

New experiences break down walls and encourage people to come out of their shells. Making new friends from different teams, participating in company culture-building events or even a round of office musical chairs can lead to employees feeling greater engagement in their work. In part one of a two-part series, six managers across Colorado tech shared their strategies for inspiring creativity in the workplace and the results that followed.  
 

fareharbor
fareharbor

Sometimes the best way to inspire curiosity is to shuffle things around...literally. Brittany Gollins, onboarding operations associate, said her team recently played office musical chairs, a game in which individuals on one team swapped out seats from employees on another team to encourage interdepartmental communication. As well, a virtual “idea box” allows employees to propose suggestions for improvements in office culture at FareHarbor. 

 

How do you create a culture of curiosity?

Our team has always been interested in personal and professional development. At the end of last year, I sent out a survey to see what topics folks were interested in most. We created an informal “2020 learning opportunities” calendar where we focus on a different topic each month during lunch-and-learns. Typically, employees are expected to focus only on skills relevant to their roles. 

Instead, last month we learned more about SEO and this month we are focusing on Google Analytics. While our team members don’t utilize these skills in normal day-to-day tasks, having this information helps us collaborate better with other departments, provide better customer service to our clients, and build transferable skills that our employees are chomping at the bit to gain.

Our team has always been interested in personal and professional development.”

 

What are some things you do to inspire curiosity in your team? 

We encourage our team to participate in volunteer opportunities that are sponsored by our internal volunteer committee. Giving back to the community with fellow employees from different backgrounds is a great way to open dialogue and build relationships that help us get creative back in the office. 

Additionally, we have a virtual “idea box” for our department. When the submitter sends in their idea, a smaller group from leadership  reviews the idea and either takes action on it or provides constructive feedback. We’ve had several awesome high-value ideas that were quick and easy to implement, as well as ideas that challenge current processes that have sparked greater discussions about departmental goals and priorities. 

One of our idea box submissions was to do office musical chairs, where individuals from our team would swap out, shadow or work alongside members from another team. The idea submitter took the lead and gathered feedback from the team, and matched them with different departments based on their interests.

 

bluprint
bluprint

Bluprint hosts online classes for people to channel their creativity, so a team of curious, inspiring individuals isn’t just a nice-to-have. To keep the artistic juices flowing, Director of SEO Kate Morris said it’s essential to introduce team members to other departments. The impact of these introductions means fresh eyes on longstanding projects and new solutions to creative blocks.  

 

How do you create a culture of curiosity?

I have found that open sharing of information and constantly asking for questions pique curiosity. Many times I’ve seen that people are interested in many things, but don’t know if they are allowed to spend time following their passions during office hours. Many people just need permission to explore their curiosities. 

On my team, every member shared in their 2020 goals that they wanted to understand analytics and company data better. We have started offering an “analytics tip of the week” and are working with our analytics team to develop regular training. 

Getting people introduced to the other parts of our business inspires curiosity.”

 

What are some things you do to inspire curiosity in your team? 

We have a team of videographers, photographers, designers, engineers, marketers, buyers, planners, customer service, video editors and many others. Getting people introduced to the other parts of our business inspires curiosity. Two of my team members wanted to explore other parts of our business. We will be setting up time so that they can shadow a member of those teams this year. This has a positive impact not only on my team members that get to learn and grow, but also on the business, which benefits from the fresh eyes on major projects. 

 

ringcentral
ringcentral

Senior Director of Enterprise Business Development Nick Shannon has three asks for his sales team to take their roles to the next level: hit numbers, be better and grow your personal brand. Holding his team accountable for their own success and development aligns with the RingCentral brand, which rewards curiosity. 

 

How do you create a culture of curiosity?

We create an environment where curiosity is rewarded. From a career pathing perspective, we ask for three things to promote into the next role. First, call and hit your number consistently. Second, do something outside your job to better the team, organization or company. Third, network and articulate your personal brand. This ensures we are a transparent organization, encourages teamwork and ideas, and drives the business development brand, which is “it starts with us.”

We create an environment where curiosity is rewarded.”

 

What are some things you do to inspire curiosity in your team? 

The RingCentral “winning as one” culture drives our ability to inspire curiosity in our teams. We hold events like quarterly all-hands meetings where we recognize performance and great ideas and discuss our transformation as an organization. We have offsite events by site, org and team. We give back to the community. 

RingCentral history had a worldwide sales kickoff in Las Vegas where we were able to meet our account teams, get executive visibility and learn. This led to many ideas that we are now executing on in a strategy called “win bigger, win faster, win as one.”

At this SKO, the business development organization had a special leadership development workshop with the outcome to break down barriers and work together as a leadership team and take our organization to the next level. This specific workshop inspired a tremendous amount of curiosity and helped us take action. 

 

zestful
zestful

Mat Vogels, CEO of Zestful, said that giving employees space allows them to naturally follow their curious instincts. For managers like himself, it’s important to be interested in your employees’ interests and encourage them to follow their passions. Instead of micromanaging too closely, give employees space and resources they need to improve their skill sets. 

 

How do you create a culture of curiosity?

The first step is to make sure that your team is already interested or curious in what they are working on. Having a natural curiosity toward their work is important. Sometimes this means you have to help them find the work that brings out this curiosity; other times, it’s more obvious. Once their passions are established, it's important to give your team the space they need to learn and discover things for themselves. Curiosity is cultivated when someone has the freedom to learn and explore on their own accord, not when they are being told what to do or are watched too closely.

Provide the space and freedom to explore whatever they’re curious about.” 

 

What are some things you do to inspire curiosity in your team? 

Provide the space and freedom to explore whatever they’re curious about. Give your team ample opportunities to create and learn. Give resources when possible to take classes or find ways to improve in areas they are interested in.

 

sovrn
sovrn

Demmel said fostering a creative environment starts with hiring curious people. From there, Sovrn strives to provide the right tools and create the right environment for learning. They host professional development opportunities like brown bag meetings and innovation weeks to explore new ideas.

 

How do you create a culture of curiosity?

It starts with hiring people who are intellectually curious. Then, we provide an environment that gives those people the tools and space they need to learn. For example, mistakes don’t result in blame. We’re all fallible. We focus on the lessons we can take away from those moments.

It starts with hiring people who are intellectually curious.”

 

What are some things you do to inspire curiosity in your team?

We tell our people to “learn like it's their job.” We support that goal with quarterly innovation weeks focused on exploring new ideas, brown bag meetings that let us share new ideas and collaboration. We don’t keep people in boxes, and we don’t dismiss good ideas, no matter who or where they come from. To make progress, you have to poke holes in what you think you know.

Recently, a few of us were curious about AWS Lambda (serverless computing) and came up with an innovation week proposal to try it out. That experiment was successful, so we kept going and turned that momentum into some really powerful projects. AWS Lambda is now a key part of our data infrastructure and we recently presented on it at the local big data meetup.

 

wishlist
wishlist

At Wishlist, employees’ curiosity is sparked by getting their hands dirty and researching new technologies. CEO Daniel Kasper said developers recently spent a week building sample Wishlist products with innovative tech. For a new product currently being developed, Wishlist held a company-wide pitch competition to build out the product’s marketing story and articulate how it works. 

 

How do you create a culture of curiosity? 

From my perspective, the secret to creating a culture of curiosity is actually quite simple: be curious yourself. Values are not created by talking, they are created through action, so start with yourself. Secondly, establish an environment where people truly listen. No one will pursue their ideas if they don’t feel their ideas are heard. Finally, ask questions and question answers. Empower your team’s curiosity by creating freedom for them to challenge the status quo at all levels.  

No one will pursue their ideas if they don’t feel their ideas are heard.”

 

What are some things you do to inspire curiosity in your team? 

Our developers recently spent a week of their time researching new technologies that can be incorporated into our platform. From machine learning to microservices to Redis Caching, they each picked a topic that interested them and built sample Wishlist products including these technologies.  

For a new product currently being developed, we hosted a company-wide pitch competition where everyone could help us create our shared story of what this new product will solve and how we will articulate how it works. 

 

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