As organizations scramble to find the next significant innovation, four factors can impact employees’ ability to ask the right questions and recommend appropriate solutions. As L&D leaders look for ways to develop their workforces, the answer to what makes people innovative could be as simple as increasing their curiosity. The challenge is to address the things that keep people from being curious. Those four factors are fear, assumptions, technology and environment (FATE).

1. Face Fears by Acknowledging Them.

Leaders often quote Carl Sagan and tell employees, “There is no such thing as a dumb question.” However, actions speak louder than words. If employees feel uncomfortable bringing up ideas or addressing problems, it could be because of how they were treated when they did it in the past, at your company or another one. It might be helpful to conduct a workshop where employees learn to feel safe in exploring ideas. It can be critical for their success to address past situations where they did not feel comfortable. Fear can be disabling, and acknowledging past issues can be the first step toward building confidence. When employees can ask themselves what they fear, it can propel them into a natural state of curiosity.

2. Attack Assumptions While Developing Empathy.

Many of the decisions people make are based on their thinking that something will be interesting, boring, not worth their time, etc. As the saying goes, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” If employees have limited knowledge, it is challenging for them to explore areas that they have never considered due to preconceived ideas.

Not all employees will share what they like or do not like. To help open employees’ minds to new ways of doing things, it can help to develop their empathy. Empathy is a significant part of emotional intelligence. By putting themselves in another person’s shoes, employees can open up world of ideas and opportunities, as well as build interpersonal skills.

3. Address the Roots of Technology Issues with Openness to Experience.

Technology can be intimidating and can make people reliant on it. Creating an innovative workplace requires that people embrace technology. If they fear it, avoid it or do not fully understand it, they can impede creativity. Openness to experience is a big part of the Big Five Model of personality. It is essential for people to see the benefits associated with those new experiences. Sometimes, employees do not know where to begin to catch up on the technology learning curve. Offering basic training can spark people’s desire to grow their knowledge.

4. Evaluate Environmental Influences Through Introspection.

Everyone has had family, friends, teachers, leaders and other people who have impacted their worldview. Without realizing it, these influences can create a dialogue in people’s minds that tells them they “should” or “shouldn’t” be interested in exploring new ideas. Introspection and self-analysis can help employees determine what led to their interest or lack of interest in certain areas. By examining investigating ideas that they usually would not, employees can find opportunities they have never considered.

Take Action

The key to overcoming all the four factors of FATE is to recognize them. Once employees have a baseline of where they stand, they can create an action plan to move forward, including goals in each of the four areas. It is also essential for leaders to then support them.