What if you had to choose just one skill to hire against? What would it be?
Would you go for a technical skill? A soft or interpersonal skill? Would it be something learned at university or perhaps acquired in a previous role?
My answer: I’d hire for curiosity.
Why? The short version – curious people naturally have an interest in learning, seeking and acquiring information and knowledge. This interest remains with them, and because of it, they always find ways to move forward. In summary, their natural drive to seek and understand means they will build on their skills and capabilities and continuously grow.
The problem with hiring for specific skills and experience at any given time is that those requirements will definitely change, and unless your employees are able to change too, their once relevant skills and experience could very well become redundant. You need your team to be able to adapt to new requirements, to continuously grow and learn new skills and solve new problems – otherwise, you’ll find that the team is unable to meet new demands and challenges as they come up and become the new basic requirements. As explained in this TED post, the important question you should ask when evaluating candidates for a role is not whether or not the person can currently do the role, but whether he could learn it. And the people who are able to learn new skills continuously are those that have an innate sense of curiosity.
So what makes curious people more valuable to your organization?
The inquisitive nature of curious individuals is a great asset to your organization because of the various behaviors that arise because of this trait. These behaviors are all highly beneficial to businesses across the board because they ultimately lead to better work environments, more collaborative teams, and better idea generation.
The most notable behaviors observed in curious people that provide the biggest benefits to organizations are:
Curious people never stop learning
They are always seeking to understand things – how something works or how something can be solved or made better. In order to understand these things, they are constantly asking questions and receiving answers – either from other people or through their own experiments. In fact, the more they know, the more they want to know, as the acquired information then opens up new doors and new questions.
Curious people are better collaborators
Because they want to learn, curious individuals are open to receiving information from others, as opposed to thinking they have all the answers themselves. They are also flexible, stemming from being comfortable with either not knowing the answer to begin with, or understanding that the answer they are seeking might contradict, and therefore challenge, information they had previously acquired. This results in these individuals having to learn new things as well as unlearn things they already knew. Because of this flexibility in learning and unlearning information, curious people are more able to see things from other peoples’ points of view and ultimately work collaboratively towards a common goal.
Curious people are more innovative
Curious people are constantly building new circuits in their brains, through the questions they ask and answers they receive. These new circuits set them up for creativity, as their minds remain active. Also, as author Austin Kleon points out in Steal Like An Artist, “every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of one or more previous ideas”. So the more ideas an individual is exposed to, the more likely they are to develop new ideas, and these new ideas are more likely to be superior to those founded on fewer, less diverse ideas.
Curious people are better problem solvers
Curious people constantly seek new information and new ways of doing things, which sets them up to be more naturally able to solve new problems. In fact, not only are they more able to solve problems, but they enjoy the process, making the solutions they develop more creative than others’. This problem solving ability is directly attributable to the genuine interest that they have in solving problems and the multiple ways they can connect ideas to form new ideas, as mentioned above.
So… Do You or Will You Begin to Start Hiring for Curiosity?
In summary, in good times and in difficult times, it is highly beneficial to any organization to have curious individuals within its workforce, and – very importantly – to nurture this curiosity. A great organization would not only nurture existing curiosity but also cultivate it throughout the business.
Is there another skill you would choose to hire against, and why? Are there any skills you try to cultivate within your team? Post your comments and any questions below, and if you can help anyone else out with an answer, don’t hesitate to do so! As always, if you’ve found this article useful, share it with someone who’ll benefit from it as well!