Curiosity linked with problem-solving ability, says research

by L&D21 Nov 2016
A new study has suggested that a strong sense of curiosity in employees can equate to an ability for creative problem-solving.
The study, carried out by Oregon State University in the USA, indicates that employers looking to hire candidates with creative problem-solving abilities would do well to test for curiosity as a personality trait during the recruitment phase.
The study utilised personality tests to gauge curiosity in participants, and found not only that those with high levels of curiosity performed better with creative tasks, but also that those with a strong 'diversity' curiosity trait (curiosity in regard to interest in unfamiliar topics and a desire to learn new things) were more likely to come up with creative solutions to a problem.
According to Jay Hardy, lead author of the study, the findings represent the latest addition to a growing body of work that suggests that employers should consider testing for curiosity traits, particularly when looking to fill complex and demanding roles.
"As workplaces evolve and jobs become increasingly dynamic and complex, having employees who can adapt to changing environments and learn new skills is becoming more and more valuable to organisations' success," said Hardy.
"But if you look at job descriptions today, employers often say they are looking for curious and creative employees, but they are not selecting candidates based on those traits."
"This research suggests it may be useful for employers to measure curiosity, and, in particular, diversive curiosity, when hiring new employees."

The study was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, and surveyed 122 undergraduate university students. Past research has revealed the link between curiosity and creativity, with this study aiming to identify exactly the type of curiosity that aids creative problem-solving.
Diversity curiosity was found to be highly appropriate for 'early stage' problem-solving because it yields a large volume of information in relation to a problem that can be used for new ideas in 'later stage' problem-solving.
Conversely, those who display 'specific' curiosity traits, defined as curiosity that reduces anxiety or fills gaps in understanding, tend to be more problem-focused, with specific curiosity regarded as a negative force.
"Because it has a distinct effect, diversive curiosity can add something extra in a prospective employee," said Hardy. "Specific curiosity does matter, but the diversive piece is useful in more abstract ways."