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From the CEO's Desk: Why Curious Teams are a Competitive Advantage

Is there a business case for curiosity? YES!

So, why don't more leaders take steps to embrace it in the workplace? The answer, I've found, is that people don't know curiosity in action when they see it. And, in turn, they can't point to how it delivers tangible benefits day to day.


But there's no doubt curious teams are a competitive advantage. They brainstorm better and surface more original, breakthrough ideas; they learn from one another and lean into calculated risks; they encourage a diversity of opinions and help identify blind spots. In short, they push us forward.


Here are five tips for championing curiosity that you can start using TODAY:


1 - Embrace Diversity When I was staffing up a big agency years ago, I would look through resumes to find and then interview the candidates who had NO agency experience, which raised a few eyebrows, for sure. But I wanted to work alongside people who hadn't been indoctrinated with The Way Things Are Done in so many parts of the advertising world. So, my first tip is look for and embrace diversity in all its forms. By bringing in fresh perspectives from people with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, you can open up a new channel for discovering all the possibilities for complex projects – both new and old.


2 - Interview Deeply & Get to Know Your Colleagues

After you've lobbed the usual interview questions at a new hire, take your conversations another layer deeper by asking them to explain how they explore new topics, locate the resources they need or find answers to complex challenges. What are they reading to stay in the know? What sticks in their mind as a recent cautionary tale from the field?


By the way, getting better at asking deeper questions can also help you get to know your team better, too. I recently ran into an old colleague who I hadn't seen in nearly a decade. She's one of the best strategists I've ever worked alongside, and I think she expected me to ask about her impressive new agency gig. But I didn't. I asked if she'd entered any foot races lately – she once competed in marathons – and she was stunned that I'd remembered what she was most passionate about. I remembered because we'd connected over our shared love of trying to get good at things that seem impossible, which I discovered over lunch one day by simply asking a few better-than-usual questions.


a staircase that may be leading up or down

3 - Encourage 'Why' and 'What If' Thinking

If no one is asking questions in meetings, that's a red flag. It could mean that they're afraid of being ignored or diminished. If leaders approach complex challenges or uncharted territory with curiosity and openness rather than fear and judgment, teams will feel more comfortable with thinking through solutions, from the basic and functional to the wholly unorthodox but brilliant. When I work with new client-side teams or facilitate brainstorm sessions, I always remind people that I want to hear their "craziest" ideas.

4 - Model Life-long Learning

Harvard Business Review reported way back in 2018 that "framing work around learning goals (developing competence, acquiring skills, mastering new situations, and so on) rather than performance goals (hitting targets, proving our competence, impressing others) boosts motivation." Leaders can model this by talking openly about what they're learning each quarter; and they can further their commitment by establishing in-house mentorship programs or peer-to-peer lunchtime learning academies. (Bond has helped companies of all sizes launch these, so let us know if you need a hand!)


5 - Broaden Your Team's Horizons

Has your best employee been given the chance to attend an industry conference, speak on a panel, judge an awards competition or simply travel on business to represent your brand? Professional development is a must, and when it can be combined with any sort of horizon broadening, or network expansion, it's truly a win-win. So much can be gained by getting out and taking in a different view or experiencing something wonderfully unusual. Just meeting people outside your inner circle can spark curiosity and new ways of thinking.


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