How Sure’s Culture of Creativity Turns Ambiguity Into an Opportunity
All innovation starts with curiosity.
Without that initial “what if…” spark — “What if there was a bookmark that could stick to paper without damaging it?” “What if you could download all the links on the internet?” “What if radar technology could help us cook food faster?” — we wouldn’t have products like Post-It Notes, Google, or microwave ovens.
The same principle applies in the workplace. Whether a company is designing revolutionary new technology or iterating on products that already exist, curiosity is what guides teams toward asking, “How can we make this better?” and putting the answers into action.
Studies have shown that curiosity is linked to creativity, empathy and adaptability — qualities that are invaluable in any organization, but especially in fast-evolving technology roles. To create experiences used by millions of people and inspire employees to follow through on new ideas, leaders have to be able to put themselves in others’ shoes. To move confidently when market conditions change, they also need to be willing to explore the uncharted.
While humans are innately curious (as any conversation with a toddler will quickly demonstrate), it takes effort and intention to create a culture of curiosity in the workplace. Employees should feel empowered to ask questions and take risks, and novel thinking should be celebrated.
At Sure, an insurance technology company, curiosity is foundational to the team’s wins. Built In Los Angeles checked in with the company’s VP of product, Marvin Sayson, to find out what that looks like.
Sure improves the digital insurance experience for customers and providers.
How have you created a culture of curiosity on your team? And how do you model this mindset as a leader?
On Sure’s product team, we believe that two-way curiosity — both being curious and sharing knowledge — is what drives most successful team members. After all, product management is all about dealing with ambiguous situations. We take advantage of those circumstances with our curiosity by conducting research, learning from our company’s subject-matter experts and collaborating cross-functionally for the best solutions. We see incomplete information as an opportunity to be creative and curious while staying efficient.
What are some things you do to inspire curiosity in your team?
On Monday mornings, our product team holds team-wide syncs where we announce the latest developments across the organization. This includes new projects that are nearing completion and newly-published documentation for both product and processes.
We see incomplete information as an opportunity to be creative and curious while staying efficient.
We also break out into smaller teams so that our product managers can help each other problem-solve more intimately. This is a great way for PMs to learn about what other PMs are up to by way of brainstorming. I also host casual Slack huddles on Tuesdays where any member of the product team can join and hang out, workshop their ideas and catch up with me or vice versa.
Our whole company has access to LinkedIn Learning, and our managers help curate courses for topics that anyone might be curious about, especially ones that help with an individual’s career growth. We also host show and tells and lunch and learns, which are informal bite-sized avenues for everyone to share knowledge or learn about current initiatives.
Tell us about how your team members apply their curiosity at work. What are the results?
To promote curiosity in our team’s culture, we host hackathons. They’re a great way for team members to devote focused time to showcasing their ideas.
Our “tech wealth” projects are also team-driven because we believe that the people closest to tech debt are the ones who best understand how to eliminate and solve it altogether. This approach allows our team members’ collective curiosity to result in efficiency. We believe that our team morale benefits when ideas aren’t squashed and curiosity is unimpeded.