16 Strategies to Build a Business Culture of Curiosity and Innovative Thinking

In business, the most effective initiatives often rise from the bottom up. While leaders are essential in shaping the larger direction of an organization, it takes the combined efforts of team members in every position to carry out set objectives successfully.

Creating an internal culture of active encouragement and support for employees to express themselves and devise new ways of thinking results in a truly effective business. Below, 16 Newsweek Expert Forummembers each offer strategic approaches business leaders can leverage to build a culture of curiosity and innovative thinking among team members at all levels.

Utilize Reverse Mentoring

One strategy that I would suggest is utilizing reverse mentoring where senior executives are paired with junior team members. By engaging in open dialogue and exchanging ideas, both parties gain valuable insights and perspectives, which can lead to innovative ideas and solutions. This will not only create a sense of inclusivity but also help in identifying untapped potential within the organization. – Umang ModiTIAG, Inc

Ensure Everyone Feels Valued and Heard

In fostering a culture of curiosity and innovative thinking within an organization, effective listening plays an important role. One strategy I’d recommend to business leaders is to create an environment where all team members, regardless of their position, feel valued and heard. This will prioritize and promote a culture of transparent communication while also encouraging the team to actively listen to one another. – Adi SegalHapi

Communicate Company Goals and Needs

The best way to build an atmosphere of curiosity and innovation among all team members is for business leaders to make appearances throughout the teams to express some of the goals and needs of the company. Leaders can tell all members what they are looking for and ask for all to help find a way to fill that need. – Baruch LabunskiRank Secure

Create Psychological Safety

Psychological safety is the underpinning of business innovation. It’s the belief that you won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up about ideas, questions or mistakes. Build an environment where people’s ideas are heard, no matter how wacky they are. Create the expectation for them to share in your one-on-one and team meetings by adding it as a standing agenda item. Award ideas that are then turned into action. – Loren MargolisTLS Leaders

Bring Diverse Individuals Together

One strategy is to create cross-functional teams that bring together individuals with diverse backgrounds and skill sets, allowing for a mix of perspectives and fresh insights. Additionally, leaders can promote a safe environment where failure is seen as a learning opportunity, empowering employees to take calculated risks and learn from their mistakes. – Anna Yusim, MDYusim Psychiatry, Consulting & Executive Coaching

Foster Collaborative Work Environments

Building a culture of curiosity from the bottom up involves fostering collaborative environments where employees feel encouraged and empowered to ask questions, seek new knowledge and explore innovative ideas. Business leaders who lead by example show genuine interest in exploring new ideas, promote autonomy and a growth mindset and reward innovative thinking among team members at all levels. – Lillian GregoryThe 4D Unicorn LLC

Allow Employees to Submit Suggestions

I’ve heard that certain companies like 3M allow all of their employees to make suggestions for future products. All of these suggestions are then read, given the proper attention and a decision is made. By realizing that good suggestions that can save your company can come from anyone in the organization regardless of rank, you will be paving the way for a lot of good ones. – Zain JafferZain Ventures

Create Clear Idea Paths

Create a process or system to ensure the right ideas get to the right people. Build a clear path so that employees have a way to contribute their ideas. Then communicate back the ideas that were implemented from the process. Building a system and demonstrating your support shows employees their opinions are actually valued. – Krista NeherBoot Camp Digital

Examine Everything Through a Child’s Eyes

I used to call myself a good “dumb end-user,” which allowed me to think outside of the box, as if I had no knowledge of the situation. It also required listening and asking questions. As I got older, I decided to add in some fun by thinking as a child with no preconceived paradigms or biases. It’s amazing what insights and observations a child can bring with a fresh set of eyes to old perceptions. – Margie KieselIsidore Partners

Be a Role Model

The most effective way to encourage curiosity and innovation is for leaders to directly model it and create space for it during one-on-one meetings and other interactions. Leaders who ask questions that invite feedback and welcome ideas that challenge processes lead to improvements and changes being made and result in teams acquiring the reps necessary for gaining confidence and creatively contributing. – Leah MaroneCorporate Wellness Consultant

Encourage and Reward Experimentation

Business leaders can build a culture of curiosity and innovative thinking among team members at all levels by encouraging and rewarding experimentation. Create an environment where taking risks is celebrated. By fostering a culture of experimentation, leaders can inspire their teams to think outside the box, generate fresh ideas and drive continuous improvement and innovation. – Alan WozniakBusiness Health Matters (BHM) Executive Consulting

Celebrate Failures

One strategy to help build a culture of curiosity and innovative thinking is to create an environment where failure is healthy. If an employee tries a planned or vetted innovation and it doesn’t go well, make sure that the team maximizes learning and celebrates the attempt instead of punishing it. This will give the team the mental safety and security to keep thinking outside of the box. – Chloe AlpertEnobl

Have a Fail Forward Policy

Implement a fail forward policy. Encourage your team to have autonomy and lead in their domain. Embrace mistakes and celebrate lessons learned from failures. Remove the fear of making mistakes by instead promoting a culture of experimentation, learning, ownership and innovation. – Gergo VariLensa

Implement Monthly Innovation Hours

I propose implementing monthly innovation hours. Dedicate some time each month where your team members are given a chance to present a creative concept to improve on current operational processes or an innovative idea that will give the organization a competitive edge. Consider rewarding the best ideas, as this can foster a culture of ownership and creativity. – Dr. Kira GravesKira Graves Consulting

Remove Consequences

Invite curiosity by removing consequences. Discovery for discovery’s sake has its place because it activates imagination directed toward the art of the possible. Curiosity and discovery are suppressed in organizations when the outcomes are linked to metrics and measurements with perceived consequences, like being passed over for a raise or promotion or being subjected to peer reviews or critiques. – Karen MangiaThe Engineered Innovation Group

Challenge Employees to Find Better Solutions

I encourage all employees to always try to find a better way. This empowers all individuals at all levels to take action and find new, creative solutions that will make the company better. Employees are on the frontlines with our network, systems, processes and customers, so they can make impactful improvements and innovations more quickly and effectively than just a top-down approach. – Steve SmithZayo

Previously published on Newsweek.