State of Curiosity Report 2018

Curiosity in the USA

We believe that breakthroughs in science and technology begin with curiosity. But how is curiosity perceived by workers across the globe? To find out if opinions have changed since our inaugural State of Curiosity Report in 2016, we asked employees in Germany, China, and the US to share their thoughts on curiosity’s role in the workplace. Discover the first insights from the 2018 report, together with thoughts from scientist and report contributor, Todd B. Kashdan.

Portrait Todd Kashdan Portrait Todd Kashdan

“Curiosity is a valuable commodity in a fast-paced world.”

Todd B. Kashdan, Ph.D.

Always Curious – by Todd B. Kashdan, Ph.D.

Humans are born with a basic motivation to be curious; an inherent motivation to explore one’s environment (Maslow, 1943, 1963). Yet, to date, there has been minimal research on curiosity in the domain where humans spend most of their waking hours — work. Since 2013, I have been collaborating with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, to rectify this situation by seeking to understand the structure of curiosity, how to best measure curiosity, determine the benefits and costs of being curious, clarify the barriers and enablers of curiosity, and discover techniques for increasing curiosity and the wide-ranging benefits (such as innovation) that arise from its expression. From this ongoing initiative, we have learned a great deal about work-related curiosity.

As Curiosity Council members, and ambassadors of curiosity, it is essential that we are receptive to modifying our own beliefs as the research evolves. In this 2018 Curiosity Report, we offer findings that revise the model of curiosity shared in the 2016 Curiosity Report. With an interest in capturing life as it’s lived, we are guided by the data.

Discover the top insights from the 2018 State of Curiosity Report…    

Curiosity is a multi-dimensional construct that rests on four key pillars. Joyous Explorationdescribes the pleasure of seeking out new information and engaging in novel experiences, and the subsequent joy of learning and growing. Joyous Exploration is pivotal for workers to successfully respond to new professional challenges and to find meaning and satisfaction in their work. Deprivation Sensitivity reflects the unpleasant state of uncertainty that persists until a gap between what we know and what we want to know is closed or resolved. It drives us to google the answer to a question on our smartphone, while we’re still engaged in a conversation, or to pick up a thought, days–sometimes even weeks–after we've first encountered it. Deprivation Sensitivity is key to acknowledging the gaps in our knowledge and arguments and thus, it is the very stepping-stone to thoroughly investigating a question or issue. Distress Tolerance refers to the willingness to embrace the doubt, confusion, anxiety, and other forms of distress that arise from exploring new and uncertain terrains. This aspect of curiosity provides us with the resilience and strength to combine our existing knowledge with new information – a process that frequently causes us to change our original interpretation of a situation or context and subsequently, to alter our behavior. Last but certainly not least, Openness to People’s Ideas describes our appreciation of diverse perspectives and approaches from the people that surround us. In general, Openness to People's Ideas helps us to be compassionate and tolerant toward one another and to embrace our diversity. In the workplace, Openness to People's Ideas also enriches the development and implementation of our problem-solving strategies by combining our own with others' ideas, while ensuring that our solutions are suitable across different people and contexts. 

Each of these four dimensions of curiosity promote the psychological benefits of experiencing intrigue and taking the steps to explore, discover, learn, and grow. Over the past two years, the members of the Curiosity Council, including me, have worked together to produce this multi-dimensional model of curiosity and to test it in workers around the globe. The Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany 2018 State of Curiosity Report summarizes our main findings and highlights the importance of curiosity across countries, industry sectors, and workers' experiences. We hope our research will further our appreciation of curiosity as the driver of progress in our global workforce.

Sophie von Stumm, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Psychological and Behavioural Science
Director, Hungry Mind Lab
London School of Economics and Political Science
Twitter: @hungrymindlab

Still Curious?

If these first insights have piqued your curiosity, download the full 2018 State of Curiosity Report and take a closer look at the barriers and enhancers affecting employees worldwide...

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