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Report finds millennials the most ‘curious’ generation – and why curiosity is good for business


Multinational pharmaceutical company Merck has just released an intriguing report called the “State of Curiosity Report 2018”. We were curious to find out more!

‘Curiosity’ is a big buzzword right now: in fact, a PwC study cited curiosity as one of the critical “survival skills” of the workplace of the future, along with critical thinking and problem solving.

The Merck report aimed to define the concept of curiosity and answer more specific questions, including what sort of organisations have the most curious workers and even which generation is the most curious!

Interestingly, they found that out of 3000 Merck employees from China, Germany and the US, the most curious generation was Gen Y, otherwise known as millennials (born between 1977-1995). Surprisingly, Gen Z (born after 1995) were found to be the least curious generation! I wonder why? (But then again, I’m a millennial, so I would.)

Read on for more about the findings, plus why curiosity is important in the workforce.

What is curiosity?

We all have our own personal definition, but we like this explanation from the recent bestseller Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things are Better Than You Think:

“Being curious means being open to new information and actively seeking it out. It means embracing facts that don’t fit your worldview and trying to understand their implications.

It means letting your mistakes trigger curiosity instead of embarrassment.”

Merck created a “Curiosity Index Score” using a scale of 0-100, with 100 being the maximum curiosity index. They used four characteristics to rank curiosity: joyous exploration (gaining pleasure from seeking out new knowledge), deprivation sensitivity (satisfaction from solving gaps in knowledge), openness to people’s ideas and stress tolerance.

Curiosity through the generations

One of the most interesting findings was the differences in curiosity for employees of different generations.

GenerationDates of birthCuriosity Index
Gen Y (Millennials)1977-199572.2
Gen X1965-197670.1
Baby Boomers1946-196469.9
Gen Z1995 onwards66.5


There was a big correlation between employee curiosity and their opinion of innovation. When looking at how employees value the role of innovation in the workplace, millennials were consistently more positive about the importance of innovation.

61% of surveyed millennials highly agreed that investing in curiosity to drive innovation is a sound investment, whereas only 43% of Generation Z and 30% of Baby Boomers believed the same.

It’s certainly food for thought, but most generalisations about different generations are just that, generalisations! There are always plenty of real life examples bucking the trend! Case in point: these young people in STEM, like ingenious inventor Macinley and mechatronics and coding whiz cousins Mitchell and Isaac!

Why does curiosity in business or organisations matter?

Merck puts forward a strong case that the best employees are curious because they’re more likely to think critically, challenge the status quo and adapt to new technology. They say that this mindset benefits the whole business

Behavioural scientist Francesca Giro wrote a recent article in the Harvard Business Review explaining that curiosity is not only vital to business performance, it also leads employees to form more trusting and collaborative relationships with their co-workers – you can read more about curiosity research here.

For more insights, such as how curiosity index varied across different industries and nations, read the highlights or full report on Merck’s site.

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