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By The Image Group

When it comes to workplace creativity, curiosity plays an important role in innovation. But recent research shows that most American workers believe their employers actually discourage them from being curious.

A Harris Poll sponsored by Merck KGaA surveyed over 2,000 U.S. workers to measure attitudes toward curiosity. The pharmaceutical and chemical company hopes their resulting “State of Curiosity” report will stimulate conversation and cultivate inquisitiveness at work.

According to the poll, only 22 percent of workers consider themselves curious. Furthermore, employees are more likely to describe themselves as organized (62 percent), detail-oriented (61 percent), and thoughtful (46 percent) – traits they believe their companies truly value.

Why would employees sense that their bosses appreciate other traits over curiosity? Largely because of obstacles they face when asking questions. Two-thirds of respondents indicate their organizations put up roadblocks preventing questioning, including top-down decision-making, unwillingness to financially support new ideas, and limiting time for creative thinking.

“A culture of asking questions – the really big ones and the seemingly small, incremental ones – is critical for innovation,” said Merck KGaA CEO, Karl-Ludwig Kley.

As it turns out, nearly 90 percent of employees recognize that it’s curious people who generate the most ideas. What’s more, 74 percent say they prefer to be personally known as idea generators.

“Curiosity is the springboard to innovation and discovery,” says Todd Kashdan, author of Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life. “If you want great work, and not just good work, encourage leaders and workers to foster all dimensions of curiosity when confronting the unknown.”

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