How to Inspire Curiosity in Your Team, Part I

by Madeline Hester
March 10, 2020

Boredom in the workplace is dangerous. Akin to burnout, boredom happens when employees feel they’ve plateaued in their position, yet are settled enough that they’re unmotivated to make changes. A survey of nearly 400 employees by OfficeTeam reported that workers feel bored about 10.5 hours per week, which can result in uninspired, unmotivated and uninteresting work.

To fight boredom, managers across Chicago look for new ways to inspire curiosity among their team members, such as company-sponsored lunch-and-learns and community groups. For these companies, it’s important for their employees to break out of a standard routine. At VelocityEHS, Director of Sales Jake Furey accomplished this  on the sales floor by creating “families,” groups consisting of one person from each sales team. 

“This has really helped to unite the teams so that employees can feel a sense of community outside of the people they directly work with and sit next to every day,” Furey said.

New experiences break down walls and encourage people to come out of their shells. Making new friends from different teams, participating in company culture-building events or even attending an improv class can lead to employees feeling greater engagement in their work. In part one of a two-part series, five managers across Chicago tech shared their strategies for inspiring creativity in their workplaces and the results that followed.

 

  

the trade desk
the trade desk

The Trade Desk aspires to change the media industry by helping brands deliver more relevant and engaging ads to their users. Fostering innovation requires big ideas. Regional Vice President of Business Development Stacy Bohrer said to generate those ideas, she first focuses on making sure employees feel safe and comfortable expressing their opinions. One method that’s sure to loosen the team up? Improv classes. 

 

How do you create a culture of curiosity?

It’s impossible to build a true culture of curiosity without a foundation of safety in which everyone feels that their true self is welcomed, celebrated and accepted. With those doors open, connection and curiosity are central parts of the energy that you find flowing through our Chicago office, feeding the inspiring and innovative work that we do each day. Make no mistake about it: nobody is going to be curious if they do not feel safe to ask questions. That foundational layer of safety is everything in Chicago; it gives us the right to speak our minds, make mistakes and learn from them without concern.

It’s impossible to build a true culture of curiosity without a foundation of safety.”

 

What are some things you do to inspire curiosity in your team? 

Curiosity cannot be manufactured. The only way to truly promote curiosity is to ensure that every individual is free to be themselves and that they are inspired. Those two elements create a curious culture. 

One of my favorite memories was when we surprised the sales team with a hands-on improv class. The goal was to race toward openness with new hires. We laughed a ton and the walls of insecurity, usually seen with new hires, were eliminated. After that day, I saw connection and curiosity during their training month, more than I had ever seen in groups that came before them. They were clearly comfortable asking everything (and anything) because they knew it was an office with a shared goal and no judgment. That was a proud day.

 

cardx
cardx

Director of Client Operations at CardX Jennifer Hocking encourages her team members to explore their own passions, and share those hobbies with co-workers. Whether it be cooking meatloaf or playing music, bringing outside interests in helps her team develop interpersonal relationships and build the trust that allows them to do the best work. Book clubs, team-bonding activities and happy hours also help. 

 

How do you create a culture of curiosity?

As a growing company, curiosity and open communication are critical to our success. We want all of our employees to bring their diverse perspectives to bear on how we’re approaching our work, whether they’ve been with us several years or several weeks. We set aside time several times a week to discuss our processes and encourage everyone to bring ideas for improvement to the table. 

Another goal for the CardX operations team has been to build robust resources to ensure team members feel empowered to research and resolve many problems on their own. This has been a big help with onboarding as well because new hires can attend a real-time training and immediately find the corresponding step-by-step instructions on the wiki.

As a growing company, curiosity and open communication are critical to our success.”

 

What are some things you do to inspire curiosity in your team? 

We recently organized our first book club, which was a great opportunity to read something inspiring and discuss the ways fresh ideas could be applied to our team. We also hold regular happy hours and team-bonding activities to get to know one another outside work. 

Not only do we love learning that a team member makes a mean meatloaf or played on John Legend’s Christmas album (just a few of the hidden talents found on the CardX team), we also believe developing genuine interpersonal relationships builds trust and allows us to do our best work.

 

reviewtrackers
reviewtrackers

ReviewTrackers’ customer feedback software helps businesses gain better insight into their overall customer experience. To gather internal feedback and learn what makes her direct reports tick, Talent and Culture Lead Ilysia Carlberg interacts with her team inside and out of the office. Who said catching up has to happen around the water cooler? The company hosts a variety of clubs geared toward tarot card readers, whiskey connoisseurs and ping pong fanatics.

 

How do you create a culture of curiosity?

At ReviewTrackers, CEO Chris Campbell encourages and promotes curiosity at all levels of the company, even including asking “what if?” as a company value. We want people to come in with an open mindset and push the envelope in our teams and product. 

This concept begins during the interview process, when we interact with candidates and get an understanding of what they are looking for in their careers. 

On the recruitment team, we talk about listening to the questions that candidates ask during the initial phone call because we want them to ask us questions about what we’re building and dig into the infrastructure of ReviewTrackers. This allows us to set new hires up for success when they join.

We want people to come in with an open mindset and push the envelope in our teams and product.”

 

What are some things you do to inspire curiosity in your team? 

Curiosity in the workplace starts by trusting people to do their work. When you take a step back and allow people to feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work, everything else starts to fall into place naturally.

When it does get to the point that the employees feel comfortable and you have embodied this idea, you will see people share their ideas and opinions because they feel valued doing so. For example, we have a ton of really amazing and unique groups popping up within ReviewTrackers that have started to form the past six months because enough people were curious about different topics outside of work. 

For instance, we have a Dungeons and Dragons group, wine and cheese club, whiskey club, movie club, an ongoing ping pong tournament, a tarot card group, and our first diversity and inclusion group. All of these groups were formed because we told people to ask “what if?” and try new things.

 

velocityehs
velocityehs

Director of Sales Jake Furey said curiosity starts with mutual trust. They practice a “speeding tickets, not parking tickets” philosophy, which means it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. At VelocityEHS, a software platform designed to help companies reach health, safety and sustainability goals faster, interaction among different teams is encouraged. The sales team does this by forming “families,” groups that consist of one person from each department. Each family takes turns hosting the monthly sales meeting.

 

How do you create a culture of curiosity?

Achieving a culture of curiosity starts with a foundation of mutual trust. We make sure our team feels confident to explore, challenge and fail in order to learn and grow. We encourage each employee to feel comfortable making their own decisions and presenting those decisions to leadership instead of just asking for an answer. 

A few years ago we began using the term, “speeding tickets, not parking tickets,” meaning, we would rather give you a “speeding ticket” and tell you to slow down a bit, as opposed to a “parking ticket” because you are becoming complacent. This term and mindset has a way of empowering employees to be curious enough to constantly move forward and therefore progress their careers and our culture. 

Achieving a culture of curiosity starts with a foundation of mutual trust.”

 

What are some things you do to inspire curiosity in your team? 

One of our biggest drivers of curiosity is feedback. We place a lot of value on feedback and really strive to make sure that no idea goes unheard. This includes receiving feedback from new hires on our onboarding process, from sales reps finding new angles to position the product and even from customers on how we can improve our product to ensure they are getting the most value. We also collect feedback by constantly checking the pulse of the team with focus groups, creating pilot teams for new ideas and making sure every employee has a voice. 

For example, last year we were receiving a lot of feedback saying there was some isolation and separation throughout various teams in the sales department. In order to resolve this, the teams came up with the idea to create “families” across the sales floor that consisted of one person from each team. 

This has really helped unite the teams so that employees feel a sense of community outside of the people they directly work with and sit next to every day. The groups have family dinners, family reunions and have each team rotates to organize our monthly sales meetings. 

 

centro
centro

Vice President of Talent Management Elles Skony said enterprise software company Centro is focused on self-improvement. To drive that principle, Centro hosts diversity and inclusion discussions where employees can initiate new societal topics to discuss and engage in. These conversations led to some employees forming “community groups” which are dedicated to intimate conversations and community awareness.

 

How do you create a culture of curiosity?

Centro is founded on the principle of self-improvement. Our understanding is that people are happiest when they are growing and giving. We call on our team members to not only improve as individuals, but also to help improve their teammates and the company as a whole. We empower and support employees to grow their professional skills, knowledge and aptitude by providing in-person and on-demand training, stipends for continued education at accredited learning institutions and more. We routinely invest in third-party organizations to create learning programs for our team.

Centro is founded on the principle of self-improvement.”

 

What are some things you do to inspire curiosity in your team? 

One major focus for the past year has been Centro’s mindfulness around diversity, equity and inclusion. Each month, our “Centro conversations” identify and explore societal topics not normally discussed within our company. 

Alongside those conversations, our team also identified another need: groups dedicated to more intimate conversations and community awareness. These self-organized “community groups,” like our CentroOUT group for the LGBTQ community, create spaces for support and awareness of various people in Centro.

 

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