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The ROI of curiosity: Why it’s worth investing in

Stefaan van Hooydonk

Curiosity at the service of innovation, inclusivity, and employee engagement

Key takeaways

  • Curiosity is a key driver for growth, innovation, engagement and success

  • Companies and leaders can create innovative, inclusive and highly productive environments where curious individuals thrive 

  • Curiosity can be measured, and has a positive Return on Investment (ROI)

Imagine how different our world would be without curiosity. We would not be interested in news or read this article, try to understand the effects of climate change, be keen to meet new people, design new products and services for our companies, improve our environments, reflect on our own beliefs, travel, or collect stamps. 

What are the benefits of curiosity?

Curiosity is the engine of growth in our world. It’s what moves us forward, generates new ideas and helps us and the world around us to evolve. Curiosity helps us challenge the status quo. It moves us from entropy to evolution and enables us to continue to test, learn, experiment, and grow. It’s also at the heart of business success with research suggesting it really is the secret ingredient to successful, happier, more creative, and more inclusive workplaces.

The many benefits of curiosity in the workplace are well documented. Curiosity helps us learn faster and better, it deepens our relationships, makes us more ready to accept change, increases our creativity and overall enhances success.

Glass Leaves

Companies which enable curiosity are more productive, inclusive, agile, and innovative. Forward looking organisations like Nike, Disney, GE, Merck, Novartis, Dell, and others are increasingly adopting curiosity as a corporate value. 

And attract talent: According to LinkedIn in 2023, there was a 90% growth in the mention of the word curiosity in online job ads on that platform compared to the previous 12 months. 

Curiosity and ROI

But how do we know if it really pays back? How do we prove that it’s something work investing in? 
In short: Curiosity really does benefit the bottom line. Research by the Global Curiosity Institute research suggests three key areas where businesses can benefit most from curiosity: creativity/innovation, inclusivity and team dynamics and employee engagement/wellbeing

Increased productivity and ROI from curious organisations
  1. Employee engagement: curiosity influences employee engagement. People are engaged when they can explore those things that makes them come alive and when they feel psychologically safe. Research is clear that when the leader invites the team to collectively explore better questions, create new answers and suggest new process or product improvements, engagement increases.

  2. Inclusivity: curiosity celebrates diversity and breeds inclusivity. When curiosity is given intentional attention at the team level, relationships improve. When leaders create a culture where all team members, even minority opinions, are given room to voice their ideas, the result is less groupthink, more openness to divergent thinking, make more informed decisions, are more productive and are magnets for the best talent. 

  3. Innovation: Companies that focus on curiosity are not only better at continuous improvement, but they are also more agile and innovative in the face of market changes. Such companies are also more likely to tap in to the ideas of their employees E.g. 3M's unique 15% Culture encourages employees to set aside a portion of their work time to proactively cultivate and pursue innovative ideas that excite them.

And these 3 areas are both highly influenced by the prevailing curiosity culture and climate or the organisation. Furthermore, they also are proven to ladder up to financial success.

  • According to Gallup, high employee engagement leads to a 20% increase in productivity.

  • A study conducted by McKinsey & Company (2020) found that companies with a more inclusive culture and more diverse workforces were more likely to outperform their less diverse peers.

  • According to the Boston Consulting Group, highly innovative companies make 2.5 times more profit and 1.5 more turnover when compared to their less innovative peers.

The three dimensions of curiosity

At the Global Curiosity Institute, we are researching the power of curiosity and are sharing our insights with leaders all around the world. One of the pillars of our work is the adoption of a multi-faceted approach to curiosity i.e., curiosity of self, of others, and of the world. Each of these dimensions are radically different and have their specific strategies to hone. The strength of this model is beyond being a useful framework for individuals, is that that teams and organisations equally can be analysed through these dimensions.

  • curiosity of self refers to inquisitiveness to understand our deeper self, our purpose, our values, our underlying narratives, and beliefs, even our limiting beliefs and biases.


  • curiosity of others is the social side of curiosity. It is the positive desire to direct our curiosity to people we work and live with (and even perfect strangers), to be open to their ideas, to deepen relationships. 

  • curiosity of the world equals intellectual curiosity and is the popular definition of curiosity in most cultures. It refers to our inquisitiveness to make sense of the word around us and to learn new things.

Through our measurement tools, inspirational keynotes, and curiosity activation consulting, we are helped an increasing number of companies to develop their curiosity muscles.

Modern Architecture

How to get even better at curiosity?:

Curiosity works like a muscle. With dedicated exercise, it grows. Without it, curiosity atrophies. The magic with curiosity is that once people start focusing and take small proactive steps, they find that it grows in abundance. The same is true for teams and organisations.
The key message is that we need to take intentional action to train our curiosity muscles. We have developed a simple yet powerful framework to embrace curiosity: 


  • give permission to curiosity: make curiosity a thing, give it a wildcard.

  • measure your status quo: baseline your curiosity.

  • become aware: slow down and notice yourself and your environment.

  • build intentionality: create new habits.

  • influence your environment: be a role model for other.


Curiosity hacks for leaders:

In practice, there are many things’ leaders can start doing today to improve curiosity across different areas. For instance:

  1. Become a curiosity role model. When you talk about others express curiosity, not judgment; plan for learning and reading time and share new ideas with your team; reflect on your values, your biases and tell your team you are doing so.

  2. Make it a point to ask open curious questions. A US based CEO we’ve worked added a new question to his business review meetings: “What are we not seeing in the data?’ this simple question has triggered more openness in these meetings, new hypotheses checking, better preparations and has even led to new ideas about market growth and customer projects.  

  3. Practice confident humility: become comfortable with not knowing and tell the team that you don’t. Invite the team to contribute to coming up with the answer.

  4. Make sure that people in your care have time and space to explore. Create jobs with elements of creative and innovative tasks.

  5. Be clear to the team when to go all out with intellectual curiosity and when not. Going all-out is for instance useful when starting and ending projects, while during implementation, intellectual curiosity moves to second base (curiosity of others and self obviously remain high throughout).

  6. Ask for feedback, not only from your manager and your peers, but also from your team members: ‘How can I be a better professional/peer/boss’ is the single most useful growth question a leader can ask, yet one which gets not often asked. 

  7. In meetings: make it a point to ensure that everybody is invited to speak up, invite minority views, share and frame failures as opportunities for learning, formulate agenda items as questions, speak last.

creative work meeting

Curiosity hacks for organisations:

Individual action alone is not a panacea. Curious individuals need curious organisations to thrive. If we don’t work in an environment that is conducive to curiosity, our efforts may not have the impact we desire. Organisations have a responsibility to help their employees to develop their curiosity. There are many ways that this can be done. For example:

  • Those companies which adopt curiosity in their corporate values give permission at the highest level to explore, experiment, suggest improvements and invite new product ideas.

  • Encourage experimentation: Ensure some time and space is available for experimentation. E.g. invite employees to contribute their thoughts in company hackathons. 

  • Celebrate failures: Make sure that first-time mistake is seen as a learning opportunity, not as a career limiting action. Accounting software company Intuit gives a special award for the Best Failure and holds “failure parties”. Intuit celebrates failures because their management believes that every failure teaches something important that can be the seed for the next great idea.

  • Embed curiosity in your HR processes: make curiosity an integral part of your recruitment, promotion, rewards, learning and development, and diversity and inclusion strategy.

  • Include curiosity in your leadership development curricula and create training for all people to reflect on curiosity and learn hacks to get even better at it. Notice that not all people will be keen at first to stick out their necks. Many of them will need both reassurance and new skills to help them in their curiosity journey.



Curiosity is one of these things which is so simple, but so overlooked. With the right focus, It can create enormous benefits if companies and individuals are intentional and productive about it. Our research suggests that curiosity has potential to positively influence collective performance via improving employee happiness/engagement, inclusivity, and innovation.

Leaders and companies have an opportunity to measure and activate curiosity in their organisations. How do we do this? In the same way that we build strong working cultures: with a mandate from the top, a clear goal, a sound definition of what curiosity means for the organisation, consistent processes, regular actions, and authentic rituals. 



Stefaan van Hooydonk, founder of the Global Curiosity Institute and author of the bestselling book: The Workplace Curiosity Manifesto.

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