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By David Harder on May, 14, 2015

The Critical Link Between Motivation & Curiosity

“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

Real motivation and curiosity are inextricably linked.

The best leaders and sales people that I know build their success on a platform of curiosity.

Great sales people don’t spend valuable time telling us how great they are. They are masters in identifying the needs and expectations of everyone they meet.

Be extension, every great leader that I know has a natural curiosity that leads them to the truth as well as connecting with the needs and expectations of their stakeholders.

Famed business author Daniel Pink has said that much of business is trying to motivate employees not by science but through “folklore.” In the modern workplace, traditional carrot and stick motivation tools continue to thrive when, in fact, they stunt motivation. And, they often kill off curiosity.

How can we build curiosity within our cultures:

We have three suggestions.

First, give people autonomy.

The old idea that workers need everything spelled out for them, when we give them a narrow performance incentive, we actually instill an idea that we don’t believe you can think for yourself.

Google provides twenty percent time to its engineers. They are asked to use 20% of their time to do anything they want, to work on any idea, to pursue their creativity, to explore possibilities. The vast majority of the innovations, new products and services at Google come directly out of twenty percent time. What a great example of expanding curiosity to an organizational level.

Next, give everyone an opportunity to attain mastery.

There is no greater identity in our work than to develop an identity as a master. When we develop environments that offer the tools to master a particular skill or role, when we expect mastery out of our people, a level of excellence emerges that directly correlates to pride.

Albert Einstein said,

“Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person.”

When we help our people develop clear aspirations, this adds a dimension to their work that raises everyone’s expectations.

And finally, give people a sense of purpose.

Mission, vision and purpose seems to be the one ingredient that will pull us through tough times.

But, this sense of purpose needs to be owned by the employee we are supporting. In my studies of employee engagement, I am finding that one of the central reasons survey-based engagement programs achieve such mediocre results is because of the manipulative questions asking, “What can you do to become a better steward of our company? How can you become a better worker?”

Modern leaders don’t dictate performance. They connect with every stakeholder through curiosity. In fact, they become masters at the game.  Today’s greatest leaders are there because they are asking the greatest questions. They hear the truth, they find it and they listen.

Curiosity is an essential element for happiness.

Curiosity is the foundation and building block of intellectual capital.

Curiosity leads us down new paths.

How exciting.


Our next Inspired Work Program is in Los Angeles on June 13 & 14.


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We welcome your questions. Please feel free to call Inspired Work at (310) 277-4850.