At November’s Lisbon Web Summit, SurveyMonkey CEO, Zander Lurie presented a keynote speech on ‘The Power of Asking Why’.

Zander revealed SurveyMonkey’s latest research on how curiosity is driving business innovation and why curiosity is the next big thing for leaders to be obsessed with when building a workplace of the future, and having conversations with both employees and customers.

The global findings, including UK specific data, highlighted why employees are often reluctant to ask questions; how much curiosity is valued in the workplace; and whether companies are encouraging questioning enough as part of their work processes.

Here are some of their most interesting findings:

  • 40 percent of millennials polled believe that management doesn’t encourage curiosity in the workplace, and in fact actively discourages asking questions
  • The data indicates that there’s a real disconnect between management and employees, with nearly three quarters (70 percent) of management and higher believing that they do encourage employees to ask questions
  • One-third (33 percent) of millennials cited a “fear of looking stupid” as the biggest barrier to being inquisitive at work
  • 28 percent said a “fear of others’ reactions” as a barrier to being curious, while 22 percent said you don’t receive real answers when asking the questions
  • Over three quarters (72 percent) believe that asking questions is an art form in itself and there is no single way to ask the “right question”
  • 70 percent of Millennials in the UK consider themselves more curious than 35-64 year olds
  • 30 percent of these youngest workers see curiosity rewarded with more cash at their workplace, and fear that a lack of curiosity will see colleagues pass you by on their way to the top
  • When it comes to sparking curiosity itself, 33 percent of Millennials in the UK are inspired to be curious by teammates at their level, and only 18 percent are inspired by their clients/customers.

Here’s how Zander suggests you can foster a ‘Culture of Curiosity’ in your organisation:

1) Make questions and curiosity central to your daily work and the company culture

Create an environment of transparency where people can get genuine answers and all kinds of questions are valued – this is especially important for the next generation of leaders. This commitment to curiosity can start from your meetings that focus on questions rather than management monologues, and also find a reflection in workplace policies, employee experience and even your office design.

2) Establish a safe space where people can ask with no fear

With over 60 percent of millennial workers in the UK concerned about how their questions will be perceived, we believe a more inclusive environment will help solve this issue and empower people to question things more.

3) Hire a diverse team

One where different points of view and questions can inspire more learning. It should be blindingly obvious by now that your business is in trouble if you don’t have diversity on your senior leadership team and board of directors. And if you’re running a global business, the need for diverse perspectives is heightened by the fact that your customers and employees are diverse.

4) Practice the art of questioning

It’s not only one of the best ways to stay informed, but asking ‘why’ helps you identify and understand the motivations driving employees, customers, and partners. There is so much data and information available to businesses these days, but we don’t have the information to get to the ‘why’—this only comes from staying curious and asking questions. Just relying on data doesn’t work. The numbers have to be combined with curiosity and people-powered insights.

5) Reward great questions

Equally important is to highlight when curiosity led to failure. “Hey, we thought we had a good idea, we tested our hypothesis, it failed, we learned!” Celebrating when you swung and missed gives teams the confidence to keep trying.

6) Make sure you and every member of your team are in regular direct contact with customers

This is to boost the organisation’s overall curiosity about customers. Only 27 percent of UK employees in our research say their curiosity is piqued by customers. Survey your own team to find out what the number in your organisation is and bring it to 100 percent.

“We see a big opportunity to grow in the people-powered data space, which is extremely important for businesses that are drowning in data”, Zander said.

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