Curiosity with purpose: please think responsibly

Like me, you may have already seen your fair share of articles touting the virtues of curiosity: its impact on the way we learn, interact and develop; its intrinsic value to the human condition; the large body of evidence showing how vital it is to team creativity, innovation, even companies’ performance.

On an appropriately curious note, I want to start by asking some new questions: what does curiosity mean in the context of social impact? Can a curious approach to purpose-led campaigns drive more and better change?

Now, before you roll your eyes and switch off – another blog telling businesses to be inquisitive and responsible, so original I know – give me a chance to re-spark your curiosity.

First off, let’s look at the facts: research shows us that curiosity is a cornerstone of successful and profitable work. Of course, a lot of it is common sense, too. It probably wouldn’t surprise many to hear that empowering a free, joyful exploration of ideas makes teams happier and more productive, which leads to better ideas, better results, and therefore better, more positive change. All pretty straightforward, but it bears repeating, especially in the context of social purpose, where there is more at stake than just meeting KPIs and making clients happy.

What exactly is at stake, you may ask? Well, a successful campaign can mean that schools and their communities get better, more relevant support; or that a charity is able to secure more funding to continue outreach to those most in need. It can help a brand justify its CSR programmes internally, and therefore invest more money into making an impact in its community. While it certainly isn’t the only factor, curiosity plays a big part in this butterfly effect; used responsibly, and with clear purpose, it can create a chain reaction of productive, positive change.

So, we’ve established that curiosity breeds great ideas, makes businesses stronger and can lead to wider social impact; but how do companies make sure it works in practice? Like most things, sustained change and growth will only happen when we put the necessary measures front and centre. Much like curiosity itself, we need to start by looking inward to find ways to cultivate curious minds at the heart of our teams.

There are so many ways in which curiosity can be embedded throughout companies’ working practices, processes and team dynamics. Using inclusive brainstorm techniques, running lunch and learn sessions, regularly praising employees for asking thought-provoking questions – these are just some small ways that curiosity can be normalised, encouraged and celebrated within a workplace.

Added to that, an intuitive approach is key. After all, curiosity is something we all have, whatever our age, background or lived experience. It should feel like a natural part of how we operate and interact, not shoehorned into meetings and training sessions. It’s hard to think outside the box when we’re just trying to tick one! There are many ways to imbue a campaign with curiosity in a purposeful, intuitive way. For example, holding creative, hands-on focus groups, incorporating user-generated content, or co-creating in an open, questioning way with your stakeholders – these types of techniques can make sure you’re bringing that inquisitive spirit to the very core of your content, whilst showing your target audience that their voices are being heard.

 Let’s also not forget to explore curiosity’s impact at the individual level. This can be easy to overlook when words like ‘campaigns’ and ‘target audiences’ are banded about. Bigger picture, strategic thinking is all very well, but it doesn’t amount to much if we don’t investigate why people resonate and connect with an idea on a personal level. Curiosity provides us with a means to self-reflect and better understand ourselves, which helps us to better understand each other – and that ‘us’ includes the relationship between companies and consumers.

 For example, turning questions inwards – is this something I believe in? Why does this conversation make me feel uncomfortable? – can help us make better decisions for ourselves and the people we encounter. In the same way, with a campaign, idea or product, showing that certain sensitivities and needs have been carefully, responsibly considered and explored is a great way to build a strong affinity and authentic trust. In short, when we approach our work with a real understanding of human curiosity and behaviour, it gives consumers agency, autonomy, the ability to choose to do good because they know why it is good.

My own journey towards understanding curiosity is far from over (I suppose that’s the point!). However, one thing feels quite clear to me: taking an actively responsible and purposeful approach to curiosity is one way we can all make positive change happen. As we come out of a global pandemic and grapple with a world that never stopped changing – for better and for worse – there has arguably seldom been a better time to open our eyes and make sure we never stop asking questions.

About the author

Hannah Furrer

Hannah has risen up the ranks from intern, and hasn’t looked back! She heads up Shell’s STEM competition, The Bright Ideas Challenge, supports the running of LifeSkills created with Barclays, and is leading the launch of a flagship educator wellbeing programme for Bupa. She loves getting creative with her projects and seeing the impact her work can have on individuals and their communities.

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