/ 7 ways to cultivate a culture of curiosity and confidence

When it comes to describing the modern organization, Donald Farmer likes to start by talking about his kitten.

“There’s a strong curiosity there,” the data and analytics expert said during the fourth episode of CURIOSITY, a Domo-sponsored video series that explores why now is the time to “do” data differently.

“A kitten’s nature is to explore, to climb trees, to burrow through tunnels. And as my kitten’s learned about her environment, as she’s satisfied those curiosities, she’s gained confidence. She now knows how to come down the tree, and how to come back through those tunnels. As a result, she’s gained even more confidence, which in turn has made her even more curious.

“The modern organization, the one that can respond well to the kind of situation we’re all in right now, breeds the same characteristics in its people: curiosity and confidence.”

Donald’s analogy was one of the many perspectives he shared as the moderator of “Curiosity and Confidence,” an hour-long discussion that also included insights from Domo’s VP of data curiosity, Ben Schein, and BI Brainz Group’s co-founder and CEO, Mico Yuk.

So why is it so important that organizations foster curiosity and confidence? Because they are the traits that lead to innovation and impact, according to Ben.

“When data is formed into the right stories and is accessible in a way that lets people be curious,” he said, “it can change the world.”

For Mico, whose company helps organizations transform their culture through the power of visual storytelling, curiosity and confidence are what enable people to discover their potential and lift businesses to new heights.

“It’s like having a superpower,” she said. “I love seeing people’s faces when they discover that, when they understand how to use data to tell stories and influence people and even trigger curiosity in others.”

To make curiosity and confidence part of your organization’s culture, start by focusing your attention on what our speakers believe are the seven keys to that kingdom …

1 – Be intentional about it

Because, as Ben said, there’s no magic bullet.

“I often see organizations spending lots of money on tools and on culture, but they don’t quite click together in a way that actually creates that curiosity and confidence needed,” he explained. “Getting it right takes work. And it takes patience.”

2 – Train people to ask the right questions

Once people have confidence in what they’re asking, Mico said, they feel better about what they’re doing. And if they’re asking questions, they’re getting to solutions faster.

“But I also think there’s got to be a way to incentivize people to be curious about data,” she added. “And I think, again, it has to start with questions. I think we have to rally around those questions like we rally around reports.”

3 – Communicate the value of data governance

Corporate governance can feel “very threatening to some people,” Donald said, but it doesn’t have to be that way, according to Ben.

“You can balance curiosity and governance with the words you choose,” he said. “It’s much more likely to be well received if it’s framed in terms of, ‘I want governance to be a force that makes you feel more confident.’

With good governance, you don’t have to worry about looking at bad data, Ben added, and you can access what’s relevant to your work much easier. For more on this particular topic, check out this short video clip:

4 – Create engaging user experiences

Sometimes when Mico does meetings, she puts iPads on everyone’s seats before they walk in. “And before we even start talking,” she said, “they start playing around with the iPads. It works really well. They start engaging.”

Said Ben: “Technology can be a great tool. It’s like that bubble you see in a text chain that indicates someone is about to send you a message. You stay there because you are curious. You want to know what they’re going to say next.”

5 – Be cognizant of potential blockers

“It’s important to recognize that every time you shoot someone down, or refuse to invest in technology, or think differently about how you empower people, you’re essentially blocking them,” Ben said.

“If you’re overly risk-averse to a certain level of access, because you’re afraid of maybe the control you could lose, you can end up stifling curiosity.”

6 – Keep all communication channels open

If there’s one thing the coronavirus pandemic has opened the door to its a level of confidence in people that were maybe hesitant to speak up in a traditional conference-room setting, Mico said.

“It’s true we’re not interacting in the way we used to,” Ben added. “We can’t just swing by someone’s desk. But if you know how to use these tools, I can say, ‘Let’s hop on a call and look at this query together.’ That’s important. Peer validation plays into confidence. So we have to make sure we’re keeping those avenues open.”

7 – Lead by example

Mico has no idea how many times people have said to her that they’re going to take the energy she exuded in their training sessions and “make something happen.” She just knows it’s happened a lot.

“I love that,” she said. “I think leading by example is one of the best ways to (foster curiosity and confidence). I always tell leaders, ‘If you can teach people to fail fast—which is also a good thing—then we can teach them how to be curious, as well.’”

To learn more from these data storytellers on how to give your teams and analysts the resources they need to be more curious and confident, watch or listen to the fourth episode in the CURIOSITY series here.

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