George Mason University Professor Todd Kashdan has conducted a study about curiosity in the workplace. He found that companies talk a good talk about curiosity and new ideas, but they don't walk the walk. Kashdan reports, "Surveying workers in 16 industries, we found that while 65% said that curiosity was essential to discover new ideas, virtually the same percentage felt unable to ask questions on the job. The contradictions continued: while 84% reported that their employers encouraged curiosity, 60% said they had also encountered barriers to it at work."
What types of barriers do workers cite? According to Kashdan, "Common stumbling blocks cited (across industries) were a top-down approach to decision-making, limited time for creative thinking, a preference for safe ideas over new ones, and fear of standing out from the pack. How can these and other organizations do better?"
We have seen the many reports about low employee engagement across a variety of industries and firms. Why is engagement so low in the American workforce? One reason may be that employees have become disenchanted by too many instances of leaders talking a good game, but not acting in ways that are consistent with those verbal messages. Not backing up your words with actions can be a very easy way to lose the trust of your employees. The research here on curiosity offers one example of a situation in which firms and their leaders appear to be dropping the ball.