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Curiosity Won’t Kill the Cat … Or Your Career

Most people know the Irish proverb “Curiosity killed the cat,” but not as many know its rejoinder: “…but satisfaction brought it back.”

But what about us – the mere servants of said felines? Humans too are inherently inquisitive and imaginative. However, while intellectual curiosity is celebrated in the arts, it is often given only the faintest praise in the business world. Curiosity won’t kill us; it just won’t get us far, so it seems, in our cube farms.

Films from Joe Versus the Volcano and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty to Fight Club and The Matrix – and who could forget the obvious: Office Space – depict office environments as draining and depressing and white-collar workers as eternally frustrated corporate drones. Typically, our protagonist hates his job and daydreams of salvation outside the cubicle walls.

For those who don’t either aspire to be, or have the talent of, a movie star or best-selling author, we may look for a way to express our creativity and intellectual curiosity – but outside the business environment, as if these elements of our personality are irrelevant to an office setting or production plant.

However, as business processes get more challenging, it becomes ever more important to leverage your most intellectually curious employees and tap every resource at your disposal. What’s in it for the company? How about saving money and solving pressing business problems that need a fresh vision?

While it’s great to offer employees flexible scheduling that affords them the time to take an enriching class or work on a novel, why not let those creative juices flow at your business so that there isn’t such a need to be mentally stimulated once the workday is done? Why should others reap the benefits of that employee’s ingenuity? Why not put it to better use?

Last month, research from Oregon State University (OSU) showed that curiosity can predict an employee’s ability to creatively solve problems and that personality tests (like the Caliper Profile) are useful in finding people who have strong curiosity traits.

Jay Hardy, an assistant professor at OSU and lead author of the study, said, “…If you look at job descriptions today, employers often say they are looking for curious and creative employees, but they are not selecting candidates based on those traits. This research suggests it may be useful for employers to measure curiosity  – and, in particular, diversive curiosity – when hiring new employees.”

This type of curiosity happens early on in the problem-solving process and is synonymous with gathering copious amounts of information relevant to addressing the problem. Hardy goes on to say that diversive curiosity allows one to learn new skills and adapt to shifting environments.

As the World of Work evolves, one thing’s for certain: those who have an underlying desire to know more about issues can help your company go beyond routine questions and a static methodology.

Curiosity needs to go from “cat-killer” to necessity in a corporate setting. Because, if curiosity leads to the demise of the cat – and, ergo, cat videos and memes – the Internet will die with it. No one wants that.

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