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Change Maker

Change Maker Takeaway: Drive Change by Cultivating Curiosity

October 9, 2018

Day two of our Change Maker Conference is underway with some really interesting discussions on how art, science, technology and community can be harnessed to drive change.

One such presentation, by Stefan Oschmann, Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, emphasized the importance of curiosity. Calling it one of the most powerful forces that creates breakthroughs and drives change, Dr. Oschmann said change makers must understand the power of being curious—and that society today needs this curiosity more than ever.

So, what does it mean to be curious? Can we quantify it? And if so, can we strengthen it?

Dr. Oschmann highlighted the four characteristics his company’s research has identified in curious people:

· Gaining pleasure from seeking new knowledge

· Recognizing gaps in their knowledge and pondering abstract ideas to close these gaps

· Being open to the ideas of others—being collaborative and valuing different perspectives and seeking out different approaches

· Recognizing that exploring the new and unfamiliar brings some anxiety, but embracing this feeling rather than being deterred by it

From his talk, it’s clear that curiosity is a mindset—and having this mindset can make a huge difference in the workplace. Dr. Oschmann stressed that any organization that wants to make a difference must drive and encourage curiosity. Given that it’s often associated with failure, it’s important that companies institute a failure tolerant culture in order to nurture “the hungry minds of its people.”

Curiosity must be part of the public discourse as well. As he put it, science and technology will enable breakthroughs in healthcare, mobility, energy and countless other sectors, but what we make of them is up to us.

It’s our mission as change makers to foster curiosity—in our work lives, our personal lives and everywhere in between.

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