Cultivating a Culture of Curiosity in Healthcare

Marketing Specialist

Despite the old adage “curiosity killed the cat,” curiosity has proven to be one of the most important qualities for an employee in the workplace. In fact, according to a recent study in the Harvard Business Review, curious people were credited with bringing new ideas into teams and organizations and viewed curiosity as a catalyst for job satisfaction, motivation, innovation, and high performance. 

While that may be unfortunate for our little feline friends, Francesca Gino, a behavioral scientist and professor at Harvard Business School, also states that fostering a curious culture can drive an organization’s performance by lowering decision-making errors, reducing group conflict, and improving communication and engagement among teams to inspire more creative and novel solutions. For example, when leaders can approach decisions with “Why?”, “What if…?”, and “How might we…?”, they enable others to exercise their own curiosity and think more deeply about innovative ideas.

However, in the healthcare industry, curiosity is more than just a creative mindset. Experts advocate that fostering a curious culture in healthcare is fundamental in helping physicians and nurses understand each patient’s unique experience of illness, build respectful relationships with patients, deepen self-awareness, support clinical reasoning, avoid pre-mature closure, and most importantly, encourage lifelong, continuous learning.

Here are a few things to consider when cultivating a culture of curiosity in the healthcare workplace.

1. Hire for Curiosity

It’s clear that some people naturally have more curious mindsets than others; as an employer, there are simple ways to measure the level of curiosity in a candidate. Google, for example, uses question tactics such as “Have you ever found yourself unable to stop learning something you’ve never encountered before? Why? What kept you persistent?” During the interview process, these questions test the candidate’s genuine curiosity—and it doesn’t have to be work related. When we accept that our own knowledge is limited, we are more apt to see that the world is always changing and recognize that there’s a possibility for more to be learned.

2. Lead by Example

As a leader, it’s important to model the behavior you wish to see in others. When we demonstrate curiosity by asking questions, not only will others be more inclined to join the conversation and provide creative solutions, but it will help fill gaps in knowledge and identify other questions to investigate. “When leaders concede that they don’t have the answer to a question, they show that they value the process of looking for answers and motivate others to explore as well,” Gino says.

3. Encourage Lifelong Learning

Demonstrating a commitment to continuous learning is key to cultivating a culture of curious mindsets—without curiosity, there’s no room for learning. For healthcare employees, specifically, lifelong learning is necessary to remain current on the trends, practices and newest treatments in medicine. However, effective learning doesn’t have to remain in the classroom. Engaged HR recommends making learning accessible during the workday by circulating interesting industry-related articles regularly, hosting routine roundtables and networking events in the community, and encourage teams to sign up for bulletins from professional associations. These simple changes can help bring fresh ideas to the table.

Leadership expert Robin Sharma once said, “The best in business have boundless curiosity and open minds.” What role does curiosity play in your company’s culture? Please share; we’d love to hear from you.