How to Inspire Curiosity in Your Team, Part II

March 23, 2020

In a 2018 Harvard Business Review article titled, “The Business Case for Curiosity,” Professor Francesca Gino writes that curiosity can reduce errors in the decisions we make and spur innovation. Additionally, curiosity can help deter group conflict, boost communication and augment performance. 

Curiosity isn’t just good for employee retention. It’s good for business.

So how do Colorado managers inspire curiosity in their teams?  Leadership development programs, lunch-and-learns and even trivia nights are all opportunities for employees to interact across departments, bounce new ideas off colleagues and develop their professional careers. 

These activities often inspire employees to try something new. At domain-registrar company name.com, J. Joseph Benavidez, a senior manager, said his team takes advantage of local tech meetups. 

“The friendly, low-pressure environment allowed our more experienced programmers to see new techniques while piquing the interest of our novice programmers,” Benavidez said.

In part two of a two-part series, five managers across Colorado tech shared strategies for inspiring creativity in the workplaces and the results that can follow.

 

ibotta
ibotta

For Jill Rosen Campbell, vice president of payments partnerships, there’s no such thing as stupid questions. At Ibotta, she works to create a space where her team feels comfortable asking her anything. She said it’s her job to actively listen and acknowledge curiosity. Trivia nights also help with spurring creativity. 

 

How do you create a culture of curiosity?

I provide settings where people feel comfortable asking anything that’s on their mind. While the provocative, tough questions are typically the most lauded in professional settings, it’s important to create safe spaces for employees to ask the more basic, level-setting questions too. By soliciting questions from everyone in a group and actively listening and acknowledging all curiosity, it becomes the norm. I’ll often pause in a meeting to ask what other questions or ideas people have to spark fresh thinking and collaboration.  

I provide settings where people feel comfortable asking anything that’s on their mind.”

 

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

I regularly create space for my team to get curious about each other. It’s fairly easy to inspire curiosity regarding the work at hand. I like to plan regular outings for my team to get to know one another better as people. For example, my team recently participated in a trivia night where we got curious about each other’s particular knowledge strengths. There were a lot of laughs and teamwork, not to mention our surprising collective knowledge in the sports category. Everyone came away more comfortable and familiar with each other. That kind of bonding is priceless and it’s on leaders to make those moments possible.  

 

name.com
name.com

Benavidez encourages his team to take risks but offers a safe and blameless environment to cushion them if they fail. He said when those risks do lead to success, the entire team celebrates. To get his engineers thinking outside the box, name.com offers opportunities to attend Amazon conferences and local meetups. 

 

How do you create a culture of curiosity?

Software pioneer Grace Hopper is credited with the phrase, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.” If you trust your team, you can allow them to take risks. I encourage my team to seek and advocate for better ways of doing things. If their curiosity spurs them to try different techniques or designs and they succeed, the entire team reaps the rewards. If something doesn’t work out, we’ve got a safe-to-fail culture, where retrospective sessions are blameless and we learn from our mistakes.

If you trust your team, you can allow them to take risks.”

 

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

We budget for conferences and training, which offer opportunities to plant seeds of curiosity. We’ve sent engineers to big conferences like Amazon’s re:Invent. 

On a smaller (and cheaper) scale, taking advantage of local tech meetups is a great option. We hire full-stack developers, but some devs naturally gravitate towards server-side code, while others prefer client-side code. A local Vue.js meetup was a perfect opportunity to expose this technology to the JavaScript-curious amongst our team. The friendly, low-pressure environment allowed our more experienced programmers to see new techniques while piquing the interest of our novice programmers. 

 

wunder
wunder

Co-founder and CPO Sam Beaudin said curiosity is infused in Wunder’s mission statement as well as in the people that work there. Hiring people without an energy background but a passion for fighting climate change brings a fresh and inquisitive perspective to assumed hurdles in the solar energy industry, Beaudin said. He encourages his team to ask questions and explore opportunities, which has resulted in solutions that have helped the company scale. 

 

How do you create a culture of curiosity?

You can’t fabricate a culture of curiosity. It’s an innate characteristic that’s born from your mission and problem space, as well as the people that are attracted to work on both. At Wunder, our mission is to fight climate change, and our problem space lies at the intersection of finance, energy and technology. 

We attract people that understand a step function is required to realize the global impact that we all seek. In this undertaking, we’re doing something that’s never been done before, so we have to start from first principles and build up from there. As a result, our team is very comfortable with ambiguity and loves to ask questions, explore opportunities and eventually arrive at solutions designed for scale.

You can’t fabricate a culture of curiosity.”

 

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

We’re ardent haters of “best practices,” so we completely banned the use of the term. Part of this is due to the fact that in our domain, there are few good practices (let alone best ones), and part of this is because we prize a beginner’s mindset. Most people join Wunder without any experience in energy, and we find it amazing how their curiosity, technical prowess and questioning of norms quickly knocks down hurdles that industry veterans described as insurmountable. By removing the “everyone does it this way” crutch, we can explore more freely, experiment more readily and innovate more rapidly.

 

trade desk
the trade desk

Principal Lead Software Engineer Marina Lepikhina tells her team that everything is possible. Removing frameworks and giving teams the option to create their own structure for completing tasks leads to unconventional solutions. Encouraging her data scientists and engineers to work on projects outside of their positions results in fast-growing projects at The Trade Desk.

 

How do you create a culture of curiosity?

I am trying to encourage people to think by giving them the opportunity in projects and features they are working on. I communicate that there’s no perfect answer, and it’s up to a person to find it. I try not to create the framework. Everything is possible. Of course the person needs to prove their solution to others, and of course there will be a pushback, but that only makes it more fun.

I am interested in how data scientists and engineers work together.”

 

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

I am interested in how data scientists and engineers work together. I found the conventional way (scientists create a concept, engineers implement it) to not work very well since it limits people and in the end it affects the overall project execution. I encouraged both sides to try to take over the feature, try to dip into the “other side.” I think people were super interested, and we had a project moving much faster than anticipated.

 

sumup
sumup

Head of Performance Marketing Brian Cox believes it’s important for his team to feel like their opinions matter. At SumUp, he strives to provide a safe environment for his team to learn and ask questions. At all-hands company meetings, employees from across the globe are encouraged to speak up and ask the leadership about anything they’re curious about.

 

How do you create a culture of curiosity?

A culture of curiosity starts with making sure everyone feels like their opinions matter. We don’t shoot any ideas down. Instead, we build people up and build upon their ideas. The marketing team might make sales decisions but we always encourage other teams to share suggestions or ideas for new experiments. People will always have different opinions and experiences and learning from those perspectives is the best way to make us stronger as a team.

We prioritize giving our teams a safe environment to learn and ask questions.”

 

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

In order for curiosity to flourish, we prioritize giving our teams a safe environment to learn and ask questions. This includes everything from regular team-building activities to tools that enable interoffice communication. One example is our quarterly all-company meetings, where employees across Europe, South America and the U.S. are empowered to directly ask the leadership team questions, publicly or anonymously. 

As our team grows, we’re also constantly creating new forums to foster curiosity, like our growth hacking lunches where we workshop new ideas or experiments around a specific challenge or topic. By creating a space where thinking outside of the box is encouraged, we strengthen our team, discover new solutions and keep growing. 

 

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