In a time of rapid technological change, innovation is a critical component for growth—even survival.
But what does it mean to be "innovative?" Feeling ideas flow and challenging the status-quo come to mind. In fact, at the root of all innovation is one important component: curiosity. And building a culture of curiosity at your company will, I believe, drive innovation for years to come.
In my upcoming book "Cracking the Curiosity Code," I set out to learn how leaders at some of the most innovative companies create a culture of curiosity. After completing nearly one thousand interviews with leaders across the country, I found that every company had three qualities in common:
1) They Think Outside the Box
Companies with a strong culture of curiosity are constantly thinking beyond the confines of how things have been done in the past.
One of my favorite examples of thinking outside the box is that of a physician at England's Great Ormond Street Hospital. After the hospital experienced a number of casualties during patient transfers, the doctor brought in a Formula One racing team to evaluate the hospital's processes, asking them to make observations based on their own methods. The process recommended by the racing team (a three-step approach to triage) reduced the hospital's errors by more than 50 percent. This was only possible because the hospital was open to trying something new.
To encourage your employees to find new solutions to old problems, consider hosting a hack-a-thon that focuses on solving a longstanding problem in a new way. Or put new hires through a rotational program—where they spend a set amount of time in finance, marketing and sales—that will expose them to a variety of different perspectives and approaches to the problems your company is working to solve every day.
2) They Embrace New Ideas
A key part of being curious is feeling safe enough to ask questions and try new things without fear of repercussion. If you want your employees to feel comfortable doing either of these things, you must foster a culture that embraces new ideas.
Part of building a culture where employees feel safe to suggest new ideas is communicating the fact that questions and proposals are valued. In order to achieve this, find out what has inhibited employees to suggest new ideas in the past. You can give employees a curiosity assessment that will identify which aspects of company culture need to be improved to make them feel safer. Once you have the results, create action plans with employees to help them incorporate curiosity into their day-to-day.
3) They Build Curiosity Into Development
Enforce the importance of curiosity by making curiosity development part of the yearly performance review. Evaluate the extent to which your workers think outside the box to solve problems, ask key questions and experiment without fear. And, to help them learn how to be curious, qualities that contribute to developing curiosity like improving emotional intelligence and engagement should be incorporated into your organization's cultural development process. Leaders can schedule monthly or quarterly meetings to assess progress in these areas.
Creating a culture of curiosity depends on leaders who can create an atmosphere where questions and ideas are embraced. When that occurs, you'll create a path to a more engaged, innovative and productive organization.
Photo: Creative Commons
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When we talk about the quest to "have it all," it's almost always in reference to working women trying to balance a stressful 9-to-5 with the equally difficult demands of family. To be sure, women face distinct challenges in the workplace and high expectations at home. But this Father's Day, let's not forget that dads are increasingly juggling work and home life, too. Single fatherhood is becoming more common in the US—a 2013 Pew report found that a record 8 percent of families with children were headed by a single dad—and 60 percent of households with children are dual-income as of 2014, putting added pressure on both working parents. While policies in the US do not mandate paid family leave of any kind—unlike parent-topia Sweden, which offers 16 months of paid parental leave and three months specifically for paternity leave—many companies are now thinking about how they can help their workers be "Employee of the Year," without sacrificing their "Dad of the Year" trophy. 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Not to mention the $20,000 worth of supplemental insurance coverage for fertility and family planning treatments. 3. Bank of America Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Charlotte, NC Number Of Employees: 220,000 Paid Parental Leave: 12 weeks Industry: Finance Policy Highlight: Bank of America's twelve weeks of paid paternity leave is on par with countries likeIceland. Not too shabby. And, if you can handle the pay break, the company also allows for an additional 14 weeks of unpaid leave. 4. Patagonia Photo: Shutterstock Headquarters: Ventura, CA Number Of Employees: 2,000 Paid Paternity Leave: 8 weeks Industry: Retail Policy Highlight: Working parents don't have to stray far from their kids as Patagonia provides on-site child care for kids up to nine years old. The famously laid-back company will also provide afternoon transportation from local schools back to the office babysitter. 5. State Street Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Boston, MA Number Of Employees: 29,530 Paid Paternity Leave: 4 weeks Industry: Finance Policy Highlight: Flexible work arrangements are a must for the busy working dad (or mom). State Street's program helps take the stress out of setting up some work-from-home time by requiring their managers to approach their employees about flexible work options. 6. Genentech Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: San Francisco, CA Number Of Employees: 14,000 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Biotech Policy Highlight: Along with dedicated paid paternity time, Genentech also offers a sabbatical program for long-term employees. Every six years, you earn six months of time off—perfect for a long summer trip with the kids. 7. LinkedIn Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Mountain View, CA Number Of Employees: 6,800 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Tech Policy Highlight: LinkedIn likes to encourage employees to think outside their cubicle and, in addition to "special projects" time once a month, you will get a $5,000 stipend for job-related education expenses. Maybe "Childcare 101" would qualify? 8. Arnold & Porter LLP Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Washington D.C. Number Of Employees: 1,284 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks (18 for primary caregiver) Industry: Legal Policy Highlights: If your spouse or partner is gainfully employed and you'd like to trade some of those work hours for family time, Arnold and Porter allows employees working at least 25 hours to qualify for benefits. The firm even has an expert panel on hand to help their lawyers make the switch to part-time. 9. Roche Diagnostics Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Indianapolis, IN (North American HQ) Number Of Employees: 4,500 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Healthcare Policy Highlight: Roche employees have plenty of opportunities to teach Junior essential life lessons like how to swing a bat or grow a juicy tomato. The company spends $35,000 annually on sponsored extracurriculars like community sports leagues, and also offers an on-site employee produce garden. 10. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: New York, NY Number Of Employees: 41,000 (U.S.) Paid Parental Leave: 6 weeks (plus an additional 2 weeks if have or adopt more than one kid) Industry: Professional Services Policy Highlight: Another company that values ad-hoc work schedules, PwC allows employees work-from-home options as well as ""Flex Days." 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