Curiosity Quotient is the new Emotional Intelligence. It doesn’t mean that we don’t need EI in everyday work and play, but we’re beginning to uncover the genuine need for leaders, talent – everyone – to be curious to solve today’s problems.

Companies talk a lot about the need for employees who are lifelong learners. Self-led, independent, driven and curious people are both. Our world is moving forward so quickly that only those who continually push themselves forward will be able to adapt and solve the emerging challenges. Just when you think you’ve reached your goals, you need to adapt and re-invent yourself and your job. Recombining skills and re-training in order to adapt to the forces of technology and mass globalization. Curious people are able to adapt because it is innate to their makeup. Some are born. Many are made.

From early childhood educators to CEOs, it’s become evident curiosity is a critical driver of success. This quality is about a desire to ask questions and being an active learner, which you can read about in a Peter Senge book or Warren Berger’s Beautiful Question, or from my podcast this week ( 

The data shows us that people who are passionate about learning tend to be high growth individuals who can take on bigger challenges. These are the individuals constantly working to improve themselves. They are innate problem solvers with strong critical thinking skills that collaborate exceedingly well with others, and these skills are rare.

C.Q. is rising in importance in the qualities employers look for when it comes time to hire talent – but usually, it’s a silent trait not well articulated by most individuals. So let’s make this unspoken requirement known. The Curiosity Quotient is a term first defined by a journalist, Tom Friedman. As Friedman stated, the winners in the digital age “will be those with more C.Q. to leverage all the new digital tools to not just find a job, but to invent one or reinvent one, and to not just learn but to relearn for a lifetime.” It turns out those with high C.Q. will thrive in today’s economy. What we now realize is that the kid with the passion and curiosity outperforms the kid with the high IQ.

In our world, where new solutions are needed on every level to solve vastly complicated problems and realities, curiosity is essential. It’s part of being independent and able to navigate one’s way through the world. The winners today are those who are innately curious in a world that requires constant reinvention. You must be a self-starter. People with high levels of initiative are curious by nature. It connects with the idea that we need to not be asking our children what they want to be when they grow up but what problem they want to solve. Curious people solve problems.

Curious people are always finding ways to stretch themselves and pushing themselves. They are asking questions, take classes, read books and always looking to the how, what, when, where, who and most importantly why variables in any scenario. The ability to brainstorm and not be threatened to reveal you don’t know something is a hallmark here. In a sense, we can say that curious people are also secure. They are not afraid of being wrong or making mistakes. Just like the curious child, the curious adult is constantly asking questions in order to move forward.

It’s a vital leadership quality. As a recent essay in the Center for Creative Leadership stated, “In the digital age of information overload, if we do not have the self-discipline to focus our curiosity on learning and improving in areas that matter, we can end up just being constantly distracted on the web by useless gossip and other noise.” Curiosity is as important as intelligence. In fact, it is an underpinning of intelligence, an essential skill that when paired with critical thinking creates incredibly effective problem solvers.

It’s a critical leadership ability. Effective leaders ask questions. They ask difficult, uncomfortable and inquisitive questions. They are constantly seeking to know more. Curiosity drives them and their businesses forward. They become more effective in every area and make better decisions than those who go into situations believing they know it all already. Curious people are nimble and open. They are sponges soaking up as much as they possibly can at all times. Being curious allows you to constantly reinvent yourself, and discover what is possible, as well as the shift out of ruts and difficult positions.

Fostering creativity among employers is critical today. You want to challenge team members on their decisions and encourage constant learning but more than that you have to foster an environment where employees feel free to play and secure enough to diverge from the party lines. Curiosity requires a feeling of safety and security in order to flourish and the environment must be prepared in order to accomplish this goal.

As Lachlan Brown describes in a recent essay for Psychology Today, “Curiosity, a state of active interest or genuinely wanting to know more about something, allows you to embrace unfamiliar circumstances, giving you a greater opportunity to experience discovery and joy.” Being an active and engaged learner is something we want to foster in talent. People who are genuinely curious are more engaged in their relationships and life overall, and they tend to be more open-minded, which makes it easier for them to negotiate and derive solutions in difficult situations. Curiosity makes us more effective, engaged, better leaders and overall happier people. We now recognize you need curiosity to continue moving upward and FORWARD.

Caroline Stokes is the founder of Forward + The Emotionally Intelligent Recruiter.

Executive Headhunter, Executive Coach, Emotional Intelligence trainer for recruiters, Forbes contributor and Podcast host of The Emotionally Intelligent Recruiter – to move innovation leaders forward in the new technology revolution.