The online survey of more than 2,000 US adult workers conducted by Harris Poll sought to assess the state of professional inquisitiveness, how curiosity is generated and whether it can be taught.
“A culture of asking questions—the really big ones and the seemingly small, incremental ones—is critical for innovation,” said Karl-Ludwig Kley, Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO of Merck KGaA, in a presentation to scientists, politicians and partners at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. “By encouraging the pursuit of the great questions in science and technology, we hope to accelerate the breakthroughs of tomorrow.”
A “Curiosity Index” in the employee study found that people working in household and personal products, entertainment and media gave the highest average curiosity scores, while the food and beverage industry ranked the lowest.
A disparity emerged between the value employees place on curiosity and their perceived ability to exercise it in daily work life, as 88 percent of American workers believe curious people are more likely to bring ideas to life at work, while only 22 percent are curious themselves in the workplace.
Over half, 60 percent, mentioned barriers to exercising curiosity in the workplace such as reliance on a top-down approach, lack of financial support and limited time to think creatively.
“Curiosity is the springboard to discovering better strategies, tactics and products,” said Dr. Todd Kashdan, author of Curious, Discovering the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life, a collaborator in the study, in a press release.
“When curiosity is supported in the workplace, employees feel energized, engaged and committed, and this helps drive innovation. To create a culture of curiosity, leaders need to find ways to encourage employees to accept and harness the perfectly normal feelings of anxiety and excitement when confronting the unknown.”
Merck KGaA has launched a campaign inviting Americans to post a question online at QuestionTogether.com or on Twitter with the hashtag #QuestionTogether, as well as this film designed to spark discussion about curiosity and innovation.
“Curiosity is an essential part of who we are,” said Kley. “We believe we are smarter together when we question together.”
Scientific American magazine editors will research and report on the top questions shared with results published online at 125YearsSmarterTogether.com.
The research is being released as part of Merck KGaA’s 125th anniversary in the US this year, having built its North American sales to nearly €2.2 billion ($2.42 billion) last year.
Citing significant growth in the last 10 years evolving “from a classic supplier of pharmaceuticals and chemicals into a global technology company,” Merck KGaA introduced a new logo and visual identity system this week, which was designed by Futurebrand as Under Consideration reports.