Curiosity vs Experience – Is One or the Other Overrated?

October 4, 2019 Dallal Samaan

I was sitting in a company-provided training class titled “Curiosity”. While taking notes I observed the trainer, the attendees and the content on the screen being presented. To my left was an HR representative. To my right was a peer in sales. The room was full of a variety of generations from Millennials to Baby Boomers. Each with their own understanding of what curiosity means to them.  

I came to realize that naturally curious people have a different kind of drive fueling them. A different motivator behind their success. Not to mention that there are a variety of ways to BE CURIOUS.

Albert Einstein once said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” As I think about his statement, I recognize that the special talent he refers to IS the drive to be passionately curious. Many people don’t have that in them, nor do they want to be curious. The curious person likes to stretch their comfort zone and step outside to learn new things. Innovation and new ideas come from those passionately curious individuals. Studies show that the curious people are open-minded to new ideas.

This led me to think about the position hiring managers find themselves in. Do they hire people that have the experience but not the curiosity and/or talent? And so my Google search began…. 

The track record of wildly successful people that possessed no direct experience, or at least weak credentials, is impressive. We’ve all heard the names Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates…. All individuals who attained elite leadership status without the ideal education or previous direct experience for their titles.

So I started looking into whether or not those few examples were isolated. While not the norm, underqualified, yet driven people, can and do succeed in a variety of fields. And after learning that Zappos takes the approach of “Hire for attitude and train for skill,” I began digging further into the worldwide web to identify a variety of advantages for hiring those with “lesser” credentials.

1. A lack of direct experience can be an asset

These people see opportunities with a new perspective. Experienced employees may have a clouded vision and see problems instead of an opportunity to generate new ideas. The perspective of a problem instead of an opportunity results in an individual that is less willing to take risks and have a developed fear of change. The curious employee finds a way to embrace change and ultimately bring their new approaches, ideas and innovations to your organization. Everyone wins in this scenario!

2. Diversity Matters

Between the generational gaps of Millennials to Baby Boomers, male vs female, and now curious vs experienced, employers have tough decisions to make when selecting the right candidates for their organization. The reality is diversity does matter because diverse perspectives disrupt the norm and bring a positive impact to business results.

3. Hidden Talent is an opportunity to uncover a Superstar

We see it in professional sports when a lower draft pick surprises almost everyone by becoming a superstar. This also applies to business. There is a reasonable chance that you could be acquiring a “diamond in the rough” who will quickly become your company’s superstar.

4. Easier to hire

There is serious competition today to acquire top talent, however, many hiring managers are looking at the applicants’ credentials instead of their skills. Those without the experience may very well be your “top talent”… not to mention, they are likely less expensive to hire over experienced candidates. Looking at the ROI on what the curious employee can bring to the organization, more and more recruiters should be looking for the curious candidates.

5. Lower employee churn rates

Curious employees have shown to be committed to their ideas. They also show a level of loyalty to their employees when their curiosity is embraced. Not only do they keep innovating when embraced in a company culture that encourages new ideas and innovation, they also tend to stay longer. Again, everyone wins!

I once heard a story of a company CEO that sent a survey out to their employees. The one question that they asked was “if you were you describe this company as an animal, what would it be?” This particular company was a fast-growing tech company. They moved quickly, were nimble and adapted to changes in the marketplace rapidly. Many of the employees responded with “jaguar” or “lion” to represent their strong and fast qualities. However, there was one response that took the CEO by surprise. The employee said “hippo”… describing the organization as “big mouth, little ears”. This employee was likely a curious individual that wasn’t being heard. The description of a hippo drove home the message that your employees don’t like to be “talked at” and appreciate being heard. Curious employees will suffocate in “hippo” corporate culture and quickly take their talent to your competition.

How do you encourage curiosity in your organization? Leveraging technology certainly helps bring innovation and curiosity to the welcome mat. Embrace employee engagement. Embrace technology to help your organization grow, develop and retain amazing talent.

Acquiring top talent requires the curiosity to engage people in innovative ways.

Four Winds Interactive has helped organizations across the globe with their Visual Communications strategy focused mainly on employee engagement. We look forward to sharing digital signage best practices and helping you explore the possibilities of this powerful technology within the corporate environment.

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