Four ways to cul­ti­vate a cul­ture of cu­rios­ity

KATIE SMITH MIL­WAY AND ALEX GOLD­MARK

Finweek English Edition - - MANAGEMENT -

HopeLab is a cu­ri­ous place. The Cal­i­for­nia-based non-profit re­searches and de­signs video games and other tech­nol­ogy prod­ucts for kids. How­ever, th­ese games don’t re­quire play­ers to sit on a couch while star­ing at a screen, zap­ping war­riors or aliens. Their aim is much deeper: the games not only mo­ti­vate play­ers to cre­ate healthy habits and be more phys­i­cally ac­tive, but also help in the f ight against can­cer.

HopeLab op­er­ates a bit dif­fer­ently than most or­gan­i­sa­tions. In its of­fice, there are fun tools de­signed to prompt con­ver­sa­tion and re­flec­tion. Meet­ings are po­si­tioned as prob­lem-solv­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. Peo­ple al­ways take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their own ac­tions and mis­takes. And em­ploy­ees are given fi­nan­cial and moral sup­port to pur­sue any kind of learn­ing, from a cook­ing class to a photography cruise.

“We look at our cul­ture as a prod­uct, just like [the games] Re-Mis­sion and Zamzee are prod­ucts,” says Pat Chris­ten, pre s i dent a nd CEO of HopeLab. “And we be­lieve a cul­ture of cu­rios­ity is key to in­no­va­tion.”

HopeLab’s meth­ods are repli­ca­ble. Con­sider the prin­ci­ples out­lined be­low. HopeLab’s prod­ucts are rooted in sci­en­tific in­quiry and re­search, it­er­a­tion and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. Peo­ple are told to ex­plore new paths and to chal­lenge their as­sump­tions and them­selves. To that end, the com­pany has cre­ated a num­ber of tools, in­clud­ing a deck of cards called ‘Ques­tions for Cu­ri­ous Lead­ers’ with 12 cat­e­gories, such as beauty, can­dour, emo­tions and 100% re­spon­si­bil­ity. Cards can be found around the of­fice, in con­fer­ence rooms and at desks; peo­ple use them on their own and in meet­ings. One emo­tions cat­e­gory ques­tion reads: “Am I fully ac­knowl­edg­ing and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing my emo­tions, then let­ting them go?” Another, in the beauty cat­e­gory, asks: “Am I en­dur­ing, al­low­ing or per­pet­u­at­ing medi­ocrity, in­el­e­gance or ug­li­ness?”

It can be hard to f ind time for ref lec­tion and con­ver­sa­tion, but th­ese tools help. “Work is more re­ward­ing when cu­rios­ity and dis­cov­ery are em­bed­ded in it,” Chris­ten says. Em­ploy­ees are more likely to en­gage in meet­ings when they know they can af­fect the out­comes. So HopeLab’s agen­das are al­ways writ­ten as ques­tions. For ex­am­ple, man­agers ask: “How should we pri­ori­tise t hese projects?” or “What mod­els of en­gage­ment might we pur­sue? Why?”

“Ev­ery­one at the meet­ing is in­vited into the con­ver­sa­tion to help us make sense of an is­sue, solve a prob­lem or imag­ine a new area of op­por­tu­nity,” Chris­ten ex­plains. “We ex­pect peo­ple to speak up – to ask ques­tions, share ideas and con­trib­ute.” As a re­sult, HopeLab is known for pro­duc­tive, en­er­gis­ing dis­cus­sions. In fact, visi­tors from other or­gan­i­sa­tions of­ten ask for ad­vice af­ter ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a HopeLab meet­ing. Re-Mis­sion is HopeLab’s free game that mo­ti­vates kids with can­cer to stick with

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