Spotlight: Changing Behavior with Team Scientist Francesca Gino
Francesca Gino studies how people can have more productive, creative and fulfilling lives. She is a professor at Harvard Business School and the bestselling author, most recently, of “Rebel Talent: Why it Pays to Break the Rules in Work and Life.” Francesca has been honored as one of the world’s Top 40 Business Professors under 40 and one of the world’s 50 most influential management thinkers by Thinkers 50. Francesca regularly gives keynote speeches, delivers corporate training programs and serves in advisory roles for firms and not-for-profit organizations across the globe.
BCFG: You’ve recently done some work around curiosity. How do you define curiosity?
Francesca Gino: I define curiosity, building on existing research, as the impulse to seek new information and experiences and explore novel possibilities. Curiosity is a basic human attribute. As children, we all do that naturally. We are born curious. But as we grow older, our attitude toward curiosity changes. If you look at the data, in fact, curiosity peaks at age 4-5, and then it declines steadily from there.
BCFG: Why is it important to be curious?
Gino: Curiosity leads to a wide range of benefits for us and the environments we are part of. Here are a few that research finds: More creativity, faster learning, fewer decision-making errors, lower group conflict, more open communication, better team performance, more diverse networks, less bias, and more effective collaboration
BCFG: What advice do you have for people who are looking to foster curiosity in themselves?
Gino: Curiosity is not only something we are born with. It can be fostered. We can encourage curiosity in ourselves and others by being inquisitive more often. Rather than fearing judgment, we can ask questions, embracing the power of inquisitiveness. We can also emphasize learning goals and identify specific ones for us, no matter how much we already know. And finally, we can broaden our interests, whether through reading, taking on new hobbies or getting to know others.
A while back, I came across a rather interesting organization: pirate ships in the 16th century. At a time when it was 200 years before slavery ended in the US, pirate ships were the most diverse organization in the globe. They got people to be part of the crew because of their skills and attitude, not because of their skin color or gender. But there was something else that was quite interesting about them: the way they were organized. The crew chose the captain. And the crew could remove the captain if he or she did not behave well towards the crew. That raised a question for me, which I think about regularly: “am I the type of captain that my crew would choose as its leader today?” If we help the crew (whether it is our colleagues, friends or kids) hold on to their curiosity, if we use the strategies we discussed to foster curiosity, then I think we’ll be more likely to say yes. And in that way, we and our crew will be ready to experience the joy of curiosity and all the benefits it brings about.
To learn more about Fran's research, check out her BCFG virtual seminar, Piqued Curiosity or watch her new TEDx talk The Power of Why: Unlocking a Curious Mind.