Despite the demands of being the President of the United States, Barack Obama dedicated an hour a day to reading while he was in office. Bill Gates reads and retains information from 50 books a year. Warren Buffett spends 80% of his day reading and acquiring knowledge.
Yes, they read because they understand the value of knowledge and the correlation to success. However, it's not about forcing themselves to read; they have a genuine intellectual curiosity and a love of learning that is their central driver.
In this article, you'll dive deep into the meaning of intellectual curiosity, how it can advance your career, and ways to be more curious at work. Let's jump in.
Intellectual curiosity is a natural desire to learn new things, understand the inner workings, and take a deep dive into subjects that others may find tiresome or burdening.
Those who are intellectually curious are not told or asked to learn a topic; they have a persistent need to know and can often be heard asking “why” and probing deeper to learn and understand.
How Can Intellectual Curiosity Advance Your Career?
Organizations and managers alike are witnessing the impact a team of intellectually curious individuals can have on results. Thus, they seek out this trait in hiring and promoting employees. In a 2018 Harvard Business Review article, The Business Case for Curiosity, the author noted and research revealed the following business impact intellectual curiosity can have:
When organizations cultivate intellectual curiosity, employees and managers are more agile and can adapt to change and market pressures
Intellectual curiosity amplifies the ability to think creatively and rationally to solve problems and develop creative solutions
When managers possess intellectual curiosity, it helps them gain respect from their team by building a more trusting and collaborative work environment
The case for individuals to develop curiosity was further proven in a study conducted by SAS in 2021. They found that intellectual curiosity is a trait organizations are looking for in their new hires and developing in their people. In this report, a few of the key findings included:
72% of managers globally agree that intellectual curiosity is a precious trait in employees
In the US, 29% of managers agreed that curiosity is lacking among current employees and job applicants. In addition, 24% agreed their companies could be doing more to foster curiosity in their employees
47% of US managers believe curiosity is much more critical for employees than it was five years ago
57% of US managers strongly agree that curiosity in employees drives results, and 54% strongly agree that employees who demonstrate intellectual curiosity tend to be higher performers
LinkedIn data shows ‘curiosity’ is on the rise in their social platform:
71% increase in posts and shares that mention curiosity
87% increase in mention of skills related to curiosity
90% increase in job postings with the word curiosity in them
Organizations and hiring managers alike are looking for individuals who demonstrate intellectual curiosity, which leads to the question, “How do I become more curious?”
How To Be More Curious at Work
Ian Leslie, human behaviorist and author of Curious, once said, “Although we are all born curious, not all of us bring this into adulthood, and we can lose out as a result.” For example, he says, “We ask 40,000 questions a year between ages two and five, which works out to around 110 questions a day; adults, in comparison, ask a mere 20 questions a day.”
To regain the curiosity we once all had as children requires intentionality as adults. In a recent Fast Company article, Art Markman, Author, and Professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin, detailed three ways to train your brain to be more curious. Art believes that even if you’re not naturally curious, there are different activities you can do to develop the habit of learning.
On any given day, at work or digesting the news, there is the information we receive that we frankly do not know much about. For example, many individuals struggle with financial acumen. Therefore, to grow one's abilities to be intellectually curious, one shouldn’t tune out when the topic of finance comes; instead, take note of terms and theories to further learn and research in the future.
One trap to avoid is limiting your notes to only things you think are important or relevant to your career. As mentioned at the start of this blog, some of the most tenacious readers go outside of their area of expertise as they want to learn more on as many topics as possible. You never know when the knowledge you obtained may become helpful.
Don’t Make It Onerous
We’re all busy with work and life commitments; therefore, if learning becomes onerous, it will not happen. So instead, when you find yourself between meetings or waiting in line, refer back to your notes on a topic and read up on it. In addition, there is so much content available in various formats; you can download a podcast to listen to or watch a video on YouTube.
Recruit A Friend
Much like having an accountability partner for fitness, finding someone interested in learning and becoming more curious can increase your likelihood of sticking with it. Start by setting up a weekly chat to share what you’ve learned in the past week.
If you’re thinking about how to drive curiosity in your team, one way I’ve done this in the past is through peer presentations. At each team meeting, assign one person to take the first ten minutes to share what they’ve learned on a topic of their choice. These research and presentation projects were not only a great development opportunity for the person presenting, but the whole team also left with increased knowledge on a wide range of topics.