Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it might also breathe life into human workers’ careers — a different breed of curiosity, at least, that researchers are just starting to look at.
In a recent study done by the University of Oklahoma, Oregon State University, and Shaker Consulting Group, researchers have discovered the connection between “diversive curiosity” and flexibility in problem solving. Diversive curiosity is a trait that occurs in varying strengths in most people: those with stronger tendencies collect more and wider-ranging information in the early stages of approaching a problem, and exhibit greater plasticity in applying that information.
This type of curiosity is highly prized in the employees in today’s increasingly complicated workforce, as it directly results in a greater capacity for creative problem solving. On the other hand, “specific curiosity” — the kind that mitigates anxiety and fills particular, rigidly defined gaps in knowledge, is a trait that, in its strength in a subject, indicates a less-creative approach.
“[…R]esearchers asked 122 undergraduate college students, to take personality tests that measured their diversive and specific curiosity traits.
They then asked the students to complete an experimental task involving the development of a marketing plan for a retailer. Researchers evaluated the students’ early-stage and late-stage creative problem-solving processes, including the number of ideas generated. The students’ ideas were also evaluated based on their quality and originality.
The findings indicated that the participants’ diversive curiosity scores related strongly to their performance scores. Those with stronger diversive curiosity traits spent more time and developed more ideas in the early stages of the task. Stronger specific curiosity traits did not significantly relate to the participants’ idea generation and did not affect their creative performance.”
The researchers further discovered that lots of companies post job listings searching for candidates with creative problem solving skills, but often don’t end up hiring people who really have them. Now that the type of curiosity that correlates with those skills has been defined, personality tests can be used to identify the most successful candidates — leading to better “cast” employees, and happier humans and companies!