Wonder at Work: A Companion Guide

Throughout the book The Power of Wonder, I discuss wonder in depth, but in Chapter 11, I take a particular look at “Wonder at Work” and how wonder can help us develop qualities that make for better leaders and team members. Below are a few excerpts from the book that illustrate the power of wonder at work. 

Wonder and leadership, organizational culture:

“What sorts of behaviors contribute to a great culture? It depends on the aspirations of each organization but cemented into the behavioral foundations of a wonder-based workplace culture we’ll usually find characteristics like empathy, humility, ethics, altruism, trust, creativity, flexibility, openness, curiosity, emotional intelligence, and cohesive, inclusive teamwork. Each of the composite elements of wonder—openness, curiosity, absorption, and awe—all contributes to these prosocial leadership qualities, and wonder in the workplace can germinate this kind of culture. (I know I’d want to work at a place like that!)”

Wonder and teamwork:

“Wonder is one of the threads that can stitch teams together. For example, people who embody the wonder trait of curiosity tend to be more engaged, infuse more excitement into meeting new people, and are more likely to seek and build on what they learn about a person. One study had strangers ask each other personal questions and found that those who showed genuine curiosity in their interlocutor were rated friendlier and more attractive. Research also indicates highly curious people appear to be less effected affected by social rejection, making them less hesitant to socially engage.”

Wonder and inclusivity:

“Wonder also encourages inclusivity. In a study using mock student trials, those who were induced to be happy recalled negative stereotypical information about the case file and meaded meted out harsher sentences, whereas those in the awe condition were less reliant on their previous stereotypes when making a judgment.  And awe makes us feel a stronger connection to social groups, too, as do other self-transcendent experiences. … More intense STEs like deep absorption, awe, or peak experiences can contribute to prosocial behavior that lasts for several months.”

Wonder and cognitive flexibility, creativity, and innovation:

“Wonder increases our attitudinal flexibility, and that attitudinal flexibility translates to cognitive flexibility, too. Cognitive flexibility in teams is associated with greater creativity, increased knowledge-sharing, better performance under pressure, and a higher tolerance for change. (Openness and curiosity both predict creativity as well.) And this cognitive flexibility brought on by wonder plays a significant role in how people handle change and risk, too. Another benefit of wonder is what’s known as the paradox mindset, or the extent to which people embrace the tensions of competing ideas. Wonder helps people better leverage this paradoxical tension as an opportunity for innovation and growth as opposed to analysis paralysis. Embracing paradoxical thinking increases organizational dexterity and makes for more nuanced and cognitively flexible thinkers and learners.”

In the wonder at work companion guide you’ll find some thought-provoking activities that will help you focus on wonder at work. These question prompts will help you purposely cultivate wonder to transform the way you approach your work and your work self. In addition to examining the wonder cycle through the lens of work, we’ll also examine the qualities important for leadership and teamwork, as well as how a wonder-based organizational culture can be to our benefit. Being more wonderprone both as workers and leaders can lead to improved performance and job satisfaction, so it’s definitely worth taking a moment to see how it might help your own workplace experience. 

Download the companion guide

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