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Mindfulness: Fostering Curiosity Leads to Innovation

Mindfulness: Fostering Curiosity Leads to Innovation

The word curious means “eager to know or learn something.” In the workplace, curious people are open minded to new ideas and willing to challenge themselves to break ground. The desire to explore new possibilities and discover new information is a human characteristic that all of us are born with. Unfortunately, in many workplace cultures, the idea that individuals should deviate from the norm and innovate has been watered down in recent years, in favor of a top-down approach wherein members of the organization are told what to do (and how to do it) instead of encouraged to explore new ideas and new ways of getting things done.

In those organizations that put mindfulness at the forefront of cultural priorities, employees are encouraged to find new and unique ways to problem solve and to come up with “outside the box” methods of completing projects. Perhaps at no time in history has there been a larger shift toward different methods of problem solving than the time frame since March 2020, when many workforces were shifted outside the traditional office walls and into a remote environment for the first time in their history.

The pandemic era is significant to mindfulness because employees had to be trusted to complete tasks on a much more unsupervised schedule. This led many employers to re-value curiosity as a skill. Suddenly many employees were completing multiple tasks on their own schedule, and had more time to think about new ways to get their job done. Individuals without a commute have been greater able to take time to think rationally about their decision-making processes, even in the most stressful of times. Without the specter of a supervisor looming over one’s physical shoulder, businesses that have embraced curiosity have seen a wealth of innovation and revolutionary thinking that has caused leaders to embrace the full concept of mindfulness as a cultural pillar.

Traditionally, many leaders felt that encouraging curiosity could increase risk and lead to inefficiency. This was a significant factor in the resistance to moving toward alternative work schedules and remote work arrangements until COVID forced the organizational hand. In reality, curiosity has a number of tangible benefits to the organization, and encouraging curiosity allows employees to nurture a trait that is useful to them in their personal lives and relationships.

The curious employee is less likely to succumb to bias, which leads to making judgment based on past experiences and perceptions about other members of the organization (and assumptions about their motives and role). The reduction in bias allows the curious employee to use their creativity to propose new ideas, and be more vocal about their opinions. After all, when we formulate an idea on our own we take pride in its ownership. This enhanced willingness to speak up also empowers the curious employee to report something they feel is not right, thereby putting the organization on notice that there may be problems lurking within. Such openness in the workplace is a positive improvement not just for compliance reasons, but because employees are more likely to feel as though they have one another’s backs and are more open to collaborative thought and work – thereby encouraging further curiosity.

When organizations are open minded and curious themselves, they are more likely to be inquisitive and help foster new ideas. While the old way may not appear broken, it is virtually certain that workplace culture can be improved by encouraging members to use their own thoughts and interests to develop new ideas and have a stake in the direction of the organization. This leads to increased loyalty and potentially employee retention and recruitment. In today’s work environment employees are increasingly attracted to an environment where they are encouraged to learn and use what they have learned to make positive contributions rather than simply follow someone else’s lead.

Syntrio believes mindfulness is a critical element to building a healthy organizational culture. We encourage you to contact a member of our staff to see how Syntrio’s awareness products can help your leaders and employees better understand how mindfulness in the workplace can better not just their work life, but also their personal lives and relationships. We look forward to working with you to put your workforce on the road to a more positive organizational environment.

View other blogs in the Mindfulness series

Since 2007, Jonathan has practiced labor and employment law on behalf of management. Jonathan focuses his practice on advising employers on the prevention of harassment and discrimination issues, with an emphasis on providing in-person harassment training programs to companies of all sizes. Jonathan is licensed in California, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and maintains a national advice practice.

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