Beyond This Course

Five Easy Steps To Train Employees To Be Curious

One of the things I think can help when delivering training to others, is to have a strong background regarding the subject matter.  To develop your knowledge, I have included some extra articles, like this one, that originally appeared on Forbes.

I hope you find it helpful!


With organizations focused on developing innovative cultures, human resources professionals and leadership consultants are often tasked with developing curiosity in employees in order to encourage more innovative ideas. This requires determining the factors that hold people back from being curious so that they can overcome those issues.

Once those barriers are removed, it is vital to create an action plan with measurable ways of improving. The training process requires that organizations recognize that curiosity can be a spark that ignites engagement, innovation and the motivation that leads to productivity. Having a culture that embraces learning agility and exploration is a big step toward moving away from status-quo thinking. Organizations must also focus on recognizing and rewarding employees when they demonstrate curiosity-based behaviors.

As a coach who specializes in curiosity, I’ve developed a few ways HR professionals and leaders can help enable curiosity in their organizations:

1. Determine what’s inhibiting curiosity.

The first step is to determine baseline measurements for what holds people back from being curious. I recently conducted research that found four factors can inhibit curiosity in the workplace: fear, assumptions (i.e., the voice in our heads), technology and environment. Sometimes these factors can overlap. For example, our environment at work can impact our level of fear. Employees are often inhibited at work for fear of saying something that might make them seem unprepared. A survey by Francesca Gino, who I once interviewed on my show, published in the Harvard Business Review found that “only about 24% reported feeling curious in their jobs on a regular basis, and about 70% said they face barriers to asking more questions at work.

Fear can hold people back if they worry about looking incompetent or unprepared. Many people have a monologue in their head that sometimes talks them out of doing things because they sound boring or too hard. Technology can be challenging for those who over- or under-utilize it. And our environment includes the impact of everyone we have ever had in our lives, such as family members who might have inadvertently discouraged our interests, as well as teachers and leaders who did not have the time to answer our questions.

Look at each of these four areas, and write down the things within each of these areas that hold you back from being curious. That is the first step toward recognition of any curiosity-inhibited issues.

2. Develop a plan.

The second step is to create an action plan for how to overcome the issues you have identified. Start by establishing SMART — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely — goals.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve found people make is to forget to make their goals measurable. An example of making the goal measurable would be to ensure that there is a date by which you would like to achieve that goal. Write down potential outcomes from achieving the goal, list support systems, consider potential threats and ways to overcome them.

HR professionals and leadership consultants can begin by doing this exercise on their own to determine their personal issues when it comes to embracing curiosity. Once your eyes are open to the potential ways that curiosity can impact your performance, it is easier for you to help train others to do the same.

3. Begin teaching your team curiosity exercises.

The third step is for HR and consultants to train others to go through the same process — and then add an additional exercise. In addition to creating the personal action plan, the training group should look at the problems that leadership faces within the organization. Then, ask individual employees to come up with ideas for how leaders can help them help the organization.

Consider a company that has high turnover in a division such as housekeeping. Leaders can ask a few simple questions to help uncover unspoken issues that could easily be improved. For example, a question along the lines of, “How can we make your job better for you?” might elicit suggestions not previously considered. In my experience, some leaders might not ask these types of questions because they assume the solutions would be too difficult or expensive. But in reality, asking these critical questions could help you discover easily resolvable issues.

4. Present this feedback to leadership.

The fourth step is for this feedback to be incorporated into a report to present to leadership. The input should remain anonymous so that employees feel comfortable sharing ideas. This report is an invaluable tool that leaders can use to help create a culture that embraces curiosity and sets the path to improved motivation, engagement, innovation and productivity.

This information must be combined with leaders focusing on their own behaviors as well. To enhance corporate culture, leaders must model the behaviors they would like to see in their employees. This requires letting down your guard a bit, which shows you are willing to ask questions and do not fear looking as if you don’t have all of the answers.

5. Reward curious employees.

The fifth step is to ensure that organizations focus on recognizing and rewarding employees who demonstrate a desire to learn, explore and provide suggestions that could lead to innovative discoveries. Not all ideas have to lead to new products. Rewarding employees for thinking outside the box and pointing out problematic issues can be just as essential.

Find out what people find rewarding. For example, some people might want financial incentives; however, sometimes perks like an extra day of personal time off or tickets to an event might be just as rewarding. The key is to open the conversation up to what people find motivational and, most importantly, recognize them when they demonstrate the skills that are most valuable to the organization’s success.

Organizations that recognize the importance of developing curiosity through these five steps will have a game plan for improving innovation, engagement and productivity. In a time of increased technological changes, it has never been more critical to move away from status-quo thinking and recognize the value of curiosity-based exploration.