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Curiosity: The Key to Building an Inclusive Culture

Even when businesses pay attention to diversity they can not thrive unless they create inclusive environments. Diversity itself is making sure that there is a good mix of people from all perspectives –gender, race, ethnicity, age, nationality and more–who all bring different perspectives to the table. The question is how to build an inclusive culture so that you can make the mix work.

The one secret ingredient that allows thriving in diversity is curiosity.

An inclusive culture is a work environment where everyone is valued as an individual, respected for who they are and feels welcome and supported regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or anything that puts people in boxes. It is a culture where we can accommodate different styles of thinking, talking, deciding, and connecting and where we learn to collaborate effectively and embrace our differences. This requires curiosity – curiosity about the other as well as curiosity about self. Even those of us who are naturally curious tend to be outwardly curious and inquisitive about the nature of the business, ecosystem, environment etc. This helps, but it is not sufficient for building an inclusive culture where the focus must also be inward, about self and the other.

Get curious about the other.

Start by inquiring into why people behave they do, what motivates them, what drives them, what they are truly passionate about. If you explore others’ preferences rather than assuming that you know or demand that they comply, you can benefit from diversity and unleash creativity. Do you truly understand the others’ perspective or seek to reaffirm your own? Practice listening to learn and understand rather than listening to find ways to fix others based on your own perceptions and often unconscious biases. Observe everything through a lens of curiosity. Pay attention to the language you use. Do you tend to say: “you don’t get it” or “help me understand how you see it”? When you truly seek to understand everyone will feel welcomed. When you deal with situations with curiosity all perspectives can be embraced.

Get curious about you.

Be a true explorer not an accidental tourist. Explore why you behave the way you do. Reflect on why you responded to a certain situation the way you did. Increase your awareness of your own unconscious biases, and how others perceive you. Unveil your assumptions and test them frequently. Check unintended consequences of your well-intended actions. Ask for feedback, make sure to include different perspectives so you avoid biased feedback and constantly reaffirming your own beliefs and justifying your behavior as we all tend to do unless we give it deliberate thought.

How do you unleash curiosity?

Not everyone is naturally curious. But everyone can learn to ask powerful questions, and everyone can learn from leaders who role model curiosity. Providing coaching and access to tools that support the learning can go a long way. Creating safe spaces for engaging in difficult and sometimes uncomfortable but honest conversations gives permission to everyone to tap into their curiosity.

Curiosity leads to a culture of continuous learning.

Leaders who are inspired by curiosity will continuously explore new approaches and new possibilities. They will keep asking questions to learn about self, other, business and the communities they serve. They will shape a culture of continuous learning and sustain the virtuous cycle of inclusion which unleashes creativity and bridges the gaps that divide us.


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