Workplace curiosity. You can read this article or take your work curiosity test directly here.
Professional curiosity.The immediate function of curiosity is to seek out, explore and immerse oneself in situations that have the potential to provide new information and/or experiences. In the long term, being curious increases one’s knowledge, builds intellectual and creative capacities, and strengthens social relationships.
Having defined curiosity opens up a psychological world, because it is related to areas of study such as openness to new experiences, novelty seeking, empathy, need for cognition, motivation, tolerance of ambiguity, integrative complexity, tolerance of uncertainty, and tolerance for frustration. I’ll stop here, the list is still long.
Assessing curiosity is complex
To evaluate one’s curiosity in a work situation, one must start by doing a little research to understand three things:
- First, distinguish the difference between, on the one hand, the intrinsic fascination of acquiring new information, which can go as far as a situation of pleasure or obsession, and on the other hand, the identified need to complete a lack of necessary information, which can go as far as a feeling of frustration and discouragement. The former, the Passionate Curious, want to learn endlessly. The latter, whether they are Solution Curious or Selective Curious, seek to stay up to date on the knowledge they need to hold their job. While at first glance a recruiter might be more interested in Passionate Curious profiles, it should be remembered that Passionate Curious people can tend to get bored quickly and direct their thirst for knowledge to every conceivable subject, not just the one they are paid to learn. The Solution Curious or Selective, although they may be seen as disengaged compared to the Passionate Curious, have sufficient hindsight and self-awareness to identify their shortcomings and select the information they need to acquire from that which is not useful in enhancing their expertise.
- Second, it is important to know that the degree to which someone is curious is contingent on two automatic assessments. The first, and most obvious, is an assessment of the potential novelty and interest of a situation to know whether it is worth paying attention to. The second evaluation is for the person confronted with the new event to judge whether he or she has adequate mental faculties to deal with the discomfort and negative emotions that may accompany an unfamiliar experience that may be complex, uncertain, ambiguous and perhaps a little dangerous.
- And finally, to understand the psychology of curiosity, it is necessary to recognise that interpersonal relationships are the foundation of human life. The degree to which a person feels part of a group strongly influences the sense of accomplishment in their work and life. In the business context, one’s opinion of one’s colleagues and their ideas is important. While some people are not interested in the views of others, the socially curious person is open to a diversity of opinions and is interested in understanding them, especially for the Empathetic Curious profile.
Having said this, and according to the research on which this “Workplace Curiosity Scale” is based, curiosity consists of 5 dimensions. Designed and tested from several studies conducted between 2004 and 2009 (Kashdan et al; Peterson & Seligman), we have chosen the 5-factor model that is currently the most useful for understanding the structure of curiosity in the workplace.
- Exploration: the recognition and desire to seek new knowledge and information gives pleasure. Here curiosity is an appetite to ask “why” in order to understand. This is the pleasure of knowledge.
- Responsiveness (or deprivation of sensitivity): this is a curiosity motivated by frustration. It is, for example, about solving a difficult problem or seeking to reduce the lack of knowledge that is missing. It is the relief of finding the solution and filling an information gap.
- Stress tolerance: the willingness to accept the fear of the unknown that comes with a new experience. It is the joy of expanding one’s comfort zone dear to iconoclasts.
- Social curiosity: the desire to know what others think by listening to them and seeking to understand them by socialising with them. The power of empathy and the enthusiasm to know the other.
- Thrill-seeking: The desire to take physical, social and financial risks in order to experience, or better still, adventure. It is the feeling that nothing can stop us.
The 5 dimensions of curiosity
The archetype of the curious person who derives pleasure from acquiring new knowledge, even if it is not to use it.
People with a high Exploration score called “Explorer” or “Passionate Curious” are more open to new experiences, show more initiative and are more persistent in pursuing a learning opportunity. They derive positive emotions from their quest for knowledge. For them, the search for new knowledge is a reward in itself, not the filling of a gap, a motivation that belongs to the “Solver” profile. This dimension corresponds to the majority of curiosity tests which assume that the act of exploring a new subject brings pleasure. This dimension has a very strong association with well-being and satisfaction with the use of a skill, second only to sensitivity deprivation.
Exploration (or “joyful exploration” in the American and German studies) is the most associated with the idea that living a full life is learning throughout your life to improve oneself and to help others to do the same. This proves that curiosity can be a source of motivation in interpersonal relationships.
People with a high score on reactivity are intellectually engaged when they have to think about complex or abstract ideas, when they are confronted with a problem, and when they search for necessary information to fill an information gap. This dimension of curiosity measures the ability to identify a knowledge gap, to investigate and to fill a gap. This dimension corresponds to the need for cognition and epistemic curiosity. Although this variant of curiosity is not widely used by researchers, I find it extremely useful in business to differentiate between ‘conscious’ curiosity which is intended to learn something, and perceptual or ‘unconscious’ curiosity which is what networks manipulate to keep us on their platform as long as possible.
This dimension has the weakest link with the ability to manage stress in the face of the unknown. The concentration of attention (acquiring a particular knowledge to solve a specific problem) leads to discomfort with the blockage that ignorance causes. Joyful Exploration is an attractive motivational approach whereas Sensory Deprivation is an avoidance motivation. Having a high score in Sensory Deprivation leads to acquiring new knowledge but for the purpose of eliminating discomfort, not for the purpose of achieving self-improving well-being.
Another thing is that this dimension has the weakest link with the ability to innovate. It is about doing a puzzle, following a manual and solving a concrete problem, not starting from a blank page. Superficially, a person with a high level of reactivity may be perceived as a perfectionist and not as being curious.
People with a high Stress Tolerance score are less daunted by doubt and confusion when exploring new places. They are able to cope with the worry or anxiety associated with the unknown, novelty and complexity. Stress tolerance has the strongest correlation with each dimension of well-being: happiness, meaning in life, satisfaction with competence, autonomy and positive emotions. This shows that stress tolerance influences other dimensions of curiosity on the development of well-being, such as empathy and distancing.
When faced with a new situation, tolerant people are able to judge the degree to which the subject is worthy of interest and whether they are able to handle the novelty intellectually.
People with a high score in Social Curiosity also have an intolerance for negative emotions. Yet being socially curious has no correlation with well-being. This manifestation of curiosity, which is an effective strategy for obtaining information, is based on three dynamics. The first dynamic is that of empathy, which corresponds to the desire to understand a person through the situations he or she is going through by putting oneself intellectually “in his or her place”. The second social dimension is that in which the curious person wishes to know more about others, either by observing and asking questions, or by listening to conversations or collecting second-hand information. The third dynamic is related to openness to the ideas of others. This third dynamic is important because it means that the inquisitive employee is interested in ideas before he or she knows who is behind them. This is what differentiates the curious employee from the gossipy one.
A high score on openness to others’ ideas and stress tolerance are the two dimensions that best predict an employee’s level of satisfaction and commitment.
People with high Thrill Seeking scores seek varied, new, complex and intense experiences that may involve physical, social or financial risks. Those with the highest scores on this dimension find their reward in being the centre of attention and being seen as hedonistic for being able to live an adventurous life. Of the 5 dimensions, Thrill Seeking has a dual consequence: those with the highest scores may experience addictions and be aggressive but are also likely to be good managers in complex and volatile environments such as entrepreneurship, the military or the first aid services.
Your levels of curiosity profile
- The explorer: the king of all-round curiosity. Did you know that Uranus was called George’s planet for 60 years?
- The solver: high on reactivity, and medium plus on the rest of the scale. Curiosity has a purpose, to overcome an obstacle and find a solution to a problem.
- The empath: you guessed it, high in social curiosity.
- The adventurer: of course, high on thrill seeking and average on the rest.
- The selective: high on reasoned learning items (I’m curious because I have no choice), average on the other dimensions, especially risk-taking.
- The indifferent: low scores on all dimensions. This profile is also called “incurious”.
The explorer is enthusiast in the search of knowledge. This is the caricature of the curious person. With a balanced score between all the dimensions of curiosity, they have a thirst for knowledge that leaves them no choice but to explore new subjects to reach their potential.
They are the most educated population and belong to a higher CSP category than the other profiles. They have an inquisitive mind and if in social situations they can be introverted but stand out with strong values and a sense of justice. They are not easily stressed by the unknown or the new and believe they can cope with difficult situations.
In keeping with the label of passionate, they demonstrate a wide range of interests and sources of expertise and spend a great deal of time, attention, energy and money in quenching their thirst for knowledge. They are the most likely to suffer from what the Japanese call “tsundoku”, buying more books than they read.
These all-rounders are enthusiastic and assertive because they do not seek to convince. They want to know as much as possible about as many subjects as possible, which often makes them not experts but creators and innovators. This lack of depth can also work against them by making them susceptible to impostor syndrome. Those who are able to channel their curiosity can develop a variety of passions that translate into complementary expertise.
Passionate employees are eager to learn and will offer the most ideas for improvement without necessarily being interested in implementing them.
Problem-solvers (if you can think of a name that translates “problem-solver” into one word, I’m listening) are curious to achieve a goal, not to flit around. They are distinguished by a strong ability to react to an obstacle to be crossed, a problem to be solved or a gap in knowledge identified. In short, the enthusiast collects books while the solver does crossword puzzles.
The solver has high scores in reactivity, average scores in stress tolerance but a low score in social curiosity. Given a choice, the solver would rather search for information to solve a problem that frustrates him than talk about life with a friend. He values autonomy more than the other profiles and is motivated by the urge to eliminate an identified knowledge gap. This is similar to the adventurer profile in its desire to act while taking advantage of the opportunities to think given by the problem it faces.
Along with the enthusiasts, the solution group has the highest tenacity. The difference is that enthusiasts are tenacious because … passionate about their discoveries whereas solutioners seek to reduce the stress they may feel from being stuck with a lack of knowledge.
So they are hard workers who don’t ask for anything from anyone if they can. They have no interest in things that are not related to the problem at hand.
Finally, they do not necessarily choose their expertise, it is the problem encountered or the gap identified that will decide on the subject on which they are curious. Curiosity can lead to burnout. Solution-oriented employees will only be interested in training that meets their current interests. Be careful not to leave them alone with their problem to avoid burnout.
The adventurer is the caricature of the nomadic person. They have the psychological strength to explore new territories without making a long-term plan.
Adventurers can become inspirational leaders who are into “doing” and not “thinking”. For them, a good idea is a realised idea, not an idea that remains in the conceptual or draft stage. They have a strong resistance to stress in complex or volatile situations and like to live unexpectedly according to the inspiration of the moment. For them, life is an adventure.
In social situations they are extroverted and are distinguished by their hedonism and joie de vivre. Being in their environment is an experience in itself. This group is as influential as the passionate curious with values covering environmental and social concerns. Their expertise is primarily cultural and does not come from a book they have read but from a difficult situation they have overcome. They have the most attractive curiosity profile as they have the most friends and contacts on social networks. Their interest is narrower than the enthusiasts but their passion is more communicative.
This title is unfortunately reductive, but the main interest of the empath is the “other” in its emotional, social and behavioural dimensions. The Empathic profile is distinguished by a high level of, you guessed it, social curiosity, a poor ability to withstand stress and a low level of thrill-seeking compared to other profiles.
Empathetic people describe themselves as easily stressed by the unknown or the gaze of others but are the most eager to show that their lives are under control. Listening to and being curious about others is one of their strongest values and corresponds to their interest in what others do and think. They do not embrace social and environmental values as strongly as the passionate, solution-oriented or adventurous profiles and spend more time on social networks than the other profiles.
Rather introverted in character, empathic people prefer to observe in order to understand. Their need to prepare in advance makes them different from but admires adventurous profiles. Empathetic employees will only be interested in training that meets their current interest and the interest of the trainer.
The Selectives have average or lower scores on all dimensions of curiosity, are less educated and have lower earnings than the previous groups. Unlike the indifferent, which is the closest group to them in terms of scores on the five dimensions, the Selectives are mostly employed. They describe themselves as rather introverted, not very open to novelty and change and easily stressed. They have very little passion, either because it is not professional or because it has not been detected and valued.
However, they are not indifferent to curiosity and know when to be at least a little curious. Their talent is to understand when and on what subject to be curious in order not to put themselves professionally at risk. They will go to training courses at the request of their manager, but it is not certain that they will bring their goodwill and enthusiasm. They are curious because they are obliged to do so in order to keep their position, no more, no less.
They have the lowest scores on all dimensions of curiosity. This is second only to the Selectives, who know that a vital minimum of curiosity is required to keep up with the times and keep their jobs.
For the indifferent, things are clear, their curiosity is not demonstrated in the workplace. They are not looking for challenges or reasons to progress. They do their job as well as they can and go to training when there is no other choice. They have long since made up their minds that learning is not for them.
More than half of the indifferent profiles who answered this test are part-time or on interim contracts. This profile, which is even more “incurious” than the Selectives, is demonstrated by a lack of passion, self-confidence, a search for personal development and expertise, and possibly by an excessive protection of their little secrets, which sometimes makes them uncooperative when it comes to passing on their knowledge. They will avoid new situations or things they do not know and their low resistance to stress is shown by their avoidance of confrontation and lack of understanding of their emotions.