Curiosity has been identified as one of the key leadership traits needed to keep up in today’s business environment, according to professional services firm PwC‘s annual CEO surveyBut even without the lens of leadership, curiosity still has a huge amount of value for individuals and businesses.

Individuals with high levels of curiosity are thirsty for knowledge and new experiences. They weave their way through ambiguity and generate ideas for new ways of working.

Agile, adaptive minds

We all operate in environments that are ever more complex and challenging. Who our competitors are, what our customers want and how quickly our internal processes move to keep up with external pressures are constant challenges. In this context, those with the highest IQ may survive, but it’s the people with the highest CQ that will thrive.

A questioning mind that is open to new ideas and to learning from those of others has never been more important. Businesses full of curious minds are agile, adaptive and far better equipped to grow and succeed.

The good news is that curiosity is a skill that can be learned. The bad news is that many organisations stifle it from the outset. Back-to-back meetings and a fixation on ‘right here, right now’ doesn’t create the fertile climate we need for a culture of curiosity to emerge.

However, culture is simply a product of the people within it and we all have the ability to be curiosity activists and start to effect a change.

Stimulating curiosity

There are a number of ways to create and activate a culture of curiosity. The first and easiest step is to start asking more questions and listening to people’s answers without judgement.

Using the phrase ‘I’m curious about your thoughts on…’ can start to register curiosity in people’s minds. Share what you have learned with other people, to help them to appreciate the value of a hungry intellect.

Second, you shouldn’t be afraid to learn without a purpose. Often, we limit our curiosity by focusing on the end state: I need to know X to do Y. Learning more randomly is a key way in which curiosity can drive creativity. By connecting random thoughts and knowledge, new ideas can emerge.

Tools and tricks

Look at free online courses to unlock your inner creativity, or find local events on areas you’re passionate about. There are a number of book summary tools such as Blinkist that can help give you new insight without committing yourselves to hours of reading, while watching one TED video a day can turn your commute into the most curious part of your day.

Third, create a culture of creativity across your team. Curious minds feed off each other. A good activity to do in teams is to crowdsource curiosity. Each person shares one way in which they are curious inside and outside of work; this informs and inspires people in different ways of being curious. I have heard some great ideas, including exploring new cities by visiting the locations on the local Monopoly board.

Finally, you should celebrate curiosity. Recognise people where you see curiosity in effect. Let people knowthat success is not just about hitting deadlines and targets but also creating opportunities and bringing new ideas into the business.

Use team meetings or business updates to acknowledge the individuals that are demonstrating these behaviours. You don’t have to be the manager of the team to do this: often peer recognition is just as important.

Helen Tupper is a career consultant and head of marketing at Virgin Red