Igniting Curiosity: Use Guided Questions to Fuel Team Ideas

Spark curiosity in your meetings to nurture a more innovative, engaged team.

Innovation, empathy, and engagement begin with curiosity. In a world where we’re constantly deluged with new information, it’s guaranteed that every time you meet with other people, they have information you don’t. Meetings are the perfect time for you and your team to share all your diverse insights and experiences, then together find a path forward that none of you could have seen on your own.

To do that, though, you first have to get curious. If you want to be truly innovative, you and your team need to be comfortable questioning the status quo. 

“The number one inhibitor of curiosity is fear,” Dr. Diane Hamilton, the author of Cracking the Curiosity Code who is also currently assisting LinkedIn’s team on improving curiosity, told me. “If leaders don’t ask questions-especially the kind of questions we’re all afraid to ask because we don’t want to look dumb-no one else asks questions either.”

If your team lacks curiosity, here are eight questions you can ask to inspire more curiosity in your meetings.

1. What kind of work would you like us to do more here? 

Not every idea needs to be feasible. If your team can propose ideas that might be considered outrageous, it can inspire some of the most creative thinking. The discussions about those crazy ideas could spark amazing innovations.

2. What are we doing inefficiently? 

Your team may know ways that you’re all wasting time and effort. They may even have thought of ways to make the work run more smoothly, but many will never speak up unless they’re asked. This question encourages everyone to share these observations so you can take action.

3. What can we do to make your job better? 

Disney asked their laundry workers this question because they needed to address a serious problem with turnover in the department, but leadership worried that they’d hear ideas they couldn’t possibly act on. Instead, they found that many answers were simple, like air vents over the laundry worker’s stations and adjustable tables that helped their backs. 

Disney got a reminder of the age-old lesson. You don’t know what you don’t know, so you have to ask. This question goes a long way to improving engagement.

4. What past experiences kept you from sharing new ideas or asking questions?

When leaders say things like “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that” or “don’t come to me with problems unless you have solutions,” their team learns to keep their concerns to themselves. That leader may be long gone, but that leader’s voice echoes in the teams’ heads and holds them back. 

Ask this question to show that you’re ready to get those assumptions out in the open and create new expectations together.

5. What have you seen work well in other companies that we should try? 

Your team may have great experiences from other jobs that they don’t share for fear of making people feel bad. Ask this question to benefit from those experiences and avoid reinventing the wheel.

6. How do we compare to the competition and what would you like to change about that?  

Leaders seldom ask this question, so they miss out on their team’s most competitive thinking. Sometimes the best ideas are held back just because no one has asked. Leaders that recognize that the people doing the work know the product best can tap into a wealth of informed insights.

7. If you were in charge, what would be the first thing you would do and why? 

This question inspires a thought-provoking discussion. You may find this discussion intimidating, but don’t worry. No two leaders would do the same thing, necessarily, so why not get some insights from others who have a stake in the outcome?

8. I don’t have that experience. What is that like? 

Finally, asking this simple question tells your team that you haven’t lived in their shoes, you don’t know everything, you don’t have all the answers, and you’re curious to learn more. When you invite someone to share what their job “is like,” you’ll all benefit by hearing their story. We all learn best from stories.

If you want to bring more curiosity to your team, try asking these eight questions. You will absolutely learn something new from the ideas and stories you hear. More importantly, you’ll model curiosity as a key part of the way your team gets things done, which sets you up to create a more innovative and engaging culture going forward.

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