On this date in 1970, Number 2 on my all-time favorite live albums began a two-week run at the top of the US charts. It was the Rolling Stones Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! The album was largely recorded at two sold-out shows at the old Madison Square Garden in NYC with one song from a Baltimore concert: all from the 1969 US tour which had ended at Altamont. Rock critic Lester Bangs said, “I have no doubt that it’s the best rock concert ever put on record.” The 1969 tour was the first to include guitarist Mick Taylor, taking over from the deceased Brian Jones and it also included Ian Stewart on keyboards. While I loved and cherished the original vinyl, I became curious when I purchased the 40thanniversary box set earlier this year and it included songs from other artists.

This anniversary edition featured three other artists who had been on the ’69 tour with the Stones; B.B. King and Ike and Tina Turner. While I had heard other B.B. King live albums (Live in Cook County Jail), I had never heard Ike and Tina Turner live so their set was a revelation. It included “Sweet Soul Music”, “Son of a Preacher Man”, “Proud Mary” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”. While the original version of the album and then CD was fabulous, it was made even better by the addition of King and the Turners. Check it out here.

Today, I conclude a two part exploration of the Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, entitled “The Business Case for Curiosity”, by Francesca Gino.  Yesterday I wrote about a key ingredient for any Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or compliance practitioner, which is curiosity. Today I want to conclude by considering what you can do as a leader to enhance curiosity in your group and what a company can do to foster curiosity in the workplace.

The first thing to recall is that companies which foster and facilitate curiosity demonstrate that they want their employees to think and raise their collective hands with ideas. This promotes institutional justice throughout the organization. Companies which either do not want their employees to be curious or worse, say they want that trait then actively discourage employees who practice it, would seem to be culturally poor and prone to employees not raising ethical violations or even ethical questions.

Curiosity also leads to another positive corporate culture attribute – empathy. Simply put, “Empathy allows employees to listen thoughtfully and see problems or decisions from another person’s perspective, while curiosity extends to interest in other people’s disciplines, so much so that one may start to practice them. And it recognizes that most people perform at their best not because they’re specialists but because their deep skill is accompanied by an intellectual curiosity that leads them to ask questions, explore, and collaborate.” If you have organizational justice at the top, coupled with empathy from your immediate supervisor and your co-workers, it is highly likely you will have a positive culture at your organization.

Gino prescribes five actions you can take.

Hiring

You can incorporate questions about curiosity into your hiring protocol. Google did this in their famous billboard posing a math puzzle but you can put questions into your hiring process. Some of the questions Gino cites are ““Have you ever found yourself unable to stop learning something you’ve never encountered before? Why? What kept you persistent?” The answers usually highlight either a specific purpose driving the candidate’s inquiry (“It was my job to find the answer”) or genuine curiosity (“I just had to figure out the answer”).

Model Inquisitiveness

Gino notes that “Leaders can encourage curiosity throughout their organization by being inquisitive themselves.” This relates to one of the most important skills for any leader, that of listening. Gino provided the example of Greg Dyke who, after being named Director at the BBC but before he took on the role, went on a tour to meet BBC employees. Rather than lay out his vision, he asked employees “What is the one thing I should do to make things better for you?” He would follow this up with “What is the one thing I should do to make things better for our viewers and listeners?

Not only did this win over a skeptical workforce but it modeled the twin behaviors of listening and being curious. Gino believes that by asking questions you are communicating your curiosity. Also it makes clear you “approach the unknown with curiosity rather than judgment.” Judging your co-workers and employees rather than listening to them is never a good prescription for a positive culture.

Continuous Learning

Perhaps the most famous commercial airline pilot of the 21stcentury is Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. When asked how he was able to land his airplane in the Hudson River, “he described a passion for continuous learning.” While many senior leaders and companies focus on the results, it is actually more beneficial to focus on learning more generally. This is a variation of the prescription to focus on the process and not the results in compliance. Yet it is equally valid.

Gino notes, “A body of research demonstrates that framing work around learning goals (developing competence, acquiring skills, mastering new situations, and so on) rather than performance goals (hitting targets, proving our competence, impressing others) boosts motivation. And when motivated by learning goals, we acquire more-diverse skills, do better at work, get higher grades in college, do better on problem-solving tasks, and receive higher ratings after training.” 

Foster Curiosity

Your company should give employees time and resources to be curious. The return on investment (ROI) will be in spades. This can come from practices as straight-forward as reimbursing employees for tuition for continued learning. It can come through rotation of employees to other corporate disciplines; such as placing an engineer in the internal audit group. It can also come through travel to locations away from the home office or outside the US.

These last two strategies also have the added benefit of broadening out one’s network. Gino stated, “they’re more comfortable than others asking questions, such people more easily create and nurture ties at work—and those ties are critical to their career development and success. The organization benefits when employees are connected to people who can help them with challenges and motivate them to go the extra mile. MIT’s Bob Langer works to raise curiosity in his students by introducing them to experts in his network. Similarly, by connecting people across organizational departments and units, leaders can encourage employees to be curious about their colleagues’ work and ways of doing business.” 

Why? And What if? Days

How about dedicating certain days in your company to asking such questions as Why? What if?and How might we…?Obviously, such questions spur curiosity but the answers that come up would not only foster this trait within your organization but might raise some concrete ideas to put into practice. Gino believes that senior leadership should not only encourage employees to be curious but they should also teach how to ask curiosity inducing questions.

Hui Chen has said one of her goals in creating the Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs (Evaluation) was to induce compliance professionals to ask questions. I would rephrase it to say the Evaluation provides a framework with which to be curious about your compliance program. As a compliance professional you should take this a step further and broaden out your curiosity. Gino ended her article by stating, “maintaining a sense of wonder is crucial to creativity and innovation. The most effective leaders look for ways to nurture their employees’ curiosity to fuel learning and discovery.” I would only add, you should do this for yourself as well.

While you are at it, check out Get Yer Ya Yasout. Let me know your favorite rock live album.

Original Album Playlist (all from YouTube)

Side One

  1. Jumpin’ Jack Flash
  2. Carol
  3. Stray Cat Blues
  4. Love in Vain
  5. Midnight Rambler

Side Two

  1. Sympathy for the Devil
  2. Live with Me
  3. Little Queenie
  4. Honky Tonk Women
  5. Street Fighting Man

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2018

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