Harnessing the Power of Curiosity

By Tony Jones, CEO, One Nucleus

There is a plethora of research and commentary available in leading publications such as the Harvard Business Review, supporting the fact that curiosity can be an essential and extremely beneficial characteristic to encourage in the workplace. Team leaders often associate this trait in their employees with high performance, bringing innovative solutions to complex challenges. It is clearly not a one-way street either, with curious leaders breeding a sense of security in their teams to be innovative and giving confidence to be challenging. Many will also see the potential for curiosity in their employees to have potential down sides. Curiosity can be perceived to trigger unnecessary risk taking and disruption of business-as-usual processes. Perhaps not all curiosity is positive, hence the cliché ‘curiosity killed the cat’.

Life Sciences Demands Curiosity

Student during chemistry lessonIn a field such as life sciences, however, it is difficult to see how being curious is a bad thing given that the sector is driven by leading edge research and innovation, creative dealmakers, and entrepreneurs who, by their nature, rarely accept the status quo. The need for disciplined disruption in the technical and business domains of life sciences is what enables progress. That is not to say there are no aspects that require discipline and compliance with established processes and rules, the sector is, after all, one of the most highly regulated industries in order to maximise patient safety.

Striking the right balance between disruption (innovation) and compliance requires any individual or team to be informed about the context in which they work. One Nucleus recognises this challenge within our members and wider network, so enabling leaders and employees to stay informed is one of the key drivers of how and why One Nucleus brings people together. It should be highlighted that there is no single format of information gathering that will allow individuals to fill their curiosity gap, but combining the opportunities below from the One Nucleus portfolio can make a significant contribution.

Formal Training Courses:

A group of people in a meetingDescription automatically generatedAs mentioned earlier, in order to harness the benefits of curiosity in advancing innovation, there is a requirement to understand the context in which the insights gained are applied. Strict compliance with guidelines when it comes to Laboratory Health & Safety is non-negotiable. One Nucleus organises both open and in-house courses on topics such as Biological Safety Management and The Safe Use of Laboratory Gases for example. These intense one- or two-day courses provide participants with a full grasp of what is required to be safe and legal in their day-to-day research. Beyond the research laboratory, One Nucleus organises a suite of ‘Introduction to…’ courses that provide participants with an understanding of the basics in areas such as drug discovery, project management, contracts, and drug development. Such a rounded understanding enables them to progress their appetite for change in effective teams, companies, and peer groups.

Crowdsourcing Answers:

Intense formal training courses can be ideal when specific learnings are needed that directly relate to someone’s day-to-day performance at work, but they are perhaps more limited when it comes to addressing more general knowledge gaps as an individual seeks to place their expert knowledge in context. The value of networking can be varied and is an enormous factor in anyone’s success. The ability to connect with peers, build relationships, and discuss ideas in a non-transactional manner is an extremely valuable tool when trying to decide things like how your latest idea can be translated to improved patient outcomes, what your next career move should be, or indeed how to create your own business. Outside the formality of a training room, people can exchange ideas, test their hypotheses, and build trust with potential partners just be being themselves, being curious about others, reflecting on what they hear post networking, and absorbing key knowledge about the wider industry pressures and opportunities. Networking is often confused with sales, yet these are very different activities in how they should be approached. Selling, by definition, is more about furthering your own interests than the other person’s, whereas networking should be mutually beneficial. Both parties’ interests get furthered via networking, and there may well be a sale of some form that ensues between them, but it ensues based on trust, shared insight, and fit, aspects that can only really be assessed when the first encounter involves two-way listening. With that in mind, One Nucleus provides numerous opportunities for such peer-to-peer networking, including the main annual conferences (ON Helix, Cambridge, July and Genesis London, December), BioWednesdays, social mixers, and more. You can check out the full One Nucleus Events portfolio to assess all the options.

Your Own Quiet Corner:

A group of people in a video conferenceDescription automatically generatedAttending in-person may not always be an option for all due to geographic distance, diary congestion, or simply an initial fear of networking outside of one’s comfort zone. I mention the latter point as being initial since, armed with a little insight on the fringes of your expert knowledge and realising that that crowd is human too, can soon translate to the confidence to attend the in-person sessions detailed above. Access to that introductory knowledge and more sophisticated discussion about specific topics within the industry are readily available via One Nucleus. The regular eNews, People Pathways blogs and Member News items provide a great depth of content. If listening or viewing on-demand sessions is more your thing, the One Nucleus YouTube channel has a great selection of content.

Being Curious with One Nucleus:

A diagram of a memberDescription automatically generatedAccepting that when in balance, the advantages of a team of curious individuals far outweighs the negatives, it would appear sensible to most that employers should seek to support their staff in satisfying their curiosity where possible. This is not least since high achievers routinely remain curious throughout their careers, so the thirst for knowledge and debate continues as their career and role develop in the business. One Nucleus Membership for companies applies across the company so that all staff can benefit. Some benefits can be quantified easily, such as savings on lab supplies and discounts on events and courses, but the benefits go so much further. In the context of this article, the somewhat less quantifiable value of enabling all staff to attend, for example, the numerous One Nucleus networking meetings free of charge. The return on that investment that leads to new ideas for the business, employee satisfaction and career development, brand enhancement of the company, and ultimately gains on the bottom line from staff retention, new business generation, and competitiveness through innovation.

Curiosity is in the DNA of Life Sciences:

Without doubt, every life science business creator, leader, and investor aspires to be the best version of themselves. They share that aspiration for the companies they start, lead, and invest in. Why would they not, since aiming to the best appears to be the only way to be competitive in a global ecosystem, and ultimately attracting the best people and investment is key to translating their ideas into patient benefit, which is always the driving force.

If the desire of good leaders to support employees in exploring their curiosity could be packaged, then, much like DNA, perhaps it would be packed into a helical structure. An example of what One Nucleus can bring to the party is thus the upcoming ON Helix conference at Babraham Research Campus this 4 July. An opportunity not to be missed by leaders or the teams they lead alike!

As Walt Disney once claimed, ‘Curiosity keeps leading us down new paths’ which seems to fit the perfect fit when we place that into the context of New Horizons in Bio Innovation that will be presented, discussed, and shared at ON Helix next week. Is there anyone who wouldn’t want to be as successful in their own sector as Walt Disney was in his? ON Helix, One Nucleus, and the plethora of opportunities for everyone to explore their curiosity feels like a great investment in people to help other people.