Collaborative study Curiosity at Work: Permission to Wonder

1 October 2015 Workplace Creativity

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Business Innovation Brief


The role of curiosity in adaptable, innovative workplaces is not yet well understood. Yet because curiosity is a concept at play in our personal domains as well as in academic or professional contexts, it’s understandable that business leaders and managers are now calling for a more curious workforce. “I wish my team had unbridled curiosity” is the wish this study addresses.

Social scientists have looked at curiosity from different disciplinary lenses. Curiosity seems to relate to: underlying personality (including openness to experience), individual’s perception of the current environment, and perception of the nature of knowledge (which differs across academic subjects and across individuals). The question – what is curiosity at work – has not been fully studied.

This study aims to create a tool for measuring workplace curiosity. The tool would allow capabilities to be benchmarked and interventions created that tangibly enhance workplace curiosity.

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Throughline is known for the experiences, training courses and communications materials it creates — and the products and campaigns it has spun out. Everything we do is organised to ignite curiosity and help workplace teams teams create meaningful new connections and generate breakthrough ideas. Our work spans industry and higher education. When facing the question “Who understands the role of curiosity in the modern workplace?” Throughline is a natural partner. For this project, KILN co-founder Gregg Fraley has introduced us to Professor Kenneth Levine of Michigan State University’s Communication Department to act as Principal Investigator. Dr. Levine’s study of charisma has successfully dimensionalised that elusive attribute and we look forward to his achieving something equally useful as regards curiosity at work. From Throughline, story & change designer Kate Hammer PhD FRSA will lead. Kate is internationally recognized as a practitioner of deliberate creativity, a change catalyst and a commercial storyteller.

How you can get involved in Phase 1

Professor Levine is currently seeking 50 individuals to participate in focus groups onsite in Q3 2016. We’re looking for a variety of participants – of different ages, genders, department, rank and tenure length. We’ll ask participants for the number of years at this employer, length of time in the current position, title/position, and gender. This information will be used to compose balanced, diverse groups. We’ll also want to place supervisors and subordinates are in separate groups. Each focus group will involve 8-10 people. The group will meet once for 45 min – 1 hour with Prof. Levine. Snacks will be provided. An external person familiar with focus group methodology will take notes.


Michigan State University is not presently a sponsor of this research. Therefore, we ask any participating companies to provide: the meeting room, the note taker (from your roster of Market Research vendors), and a travel bursary (or direct booking) from Lansing, Michigan and two nights in a local hotel. Flights on United Airlines from Lansing are preferred. Trains and driving into greater Chicago area are also options.

Quantitative Study

When the survey tool is ready later in 2016 (or early 2017), we’ll be seeking 200-500 respondents who have not participated in Phase One focus groups. These respondents will be asked to complete an online survey hosted on Qualtrics. Companies who can provide 200 or more respondents will receive a White Paper and 60 min webinar from the research team in H1 2017. Please contact us to arrange a conversation. We’d love to get your company site involved.