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Growing a Tech Unicorn Powered by Curiosity

December 11, 2020

Learn from Dr Susan Chen, Gojek's 'learning scientist', on how you can create a curiosity-led culture of learning in your organisation.

In a recent NewCampus Power Lunch Hour, we were joined by Dr Susan Chen, Global Head of Leadership and Talent Development at Gojek, who shared her recipe for “activating” curiosity within their employees, and how we can nudge ourselves to become ever-curious learners at the workplace.

Today, we recognise Gojek as Indonesia’s first technology unicorn when just ten years ago, the startup had its humble beginnings as a motorcycle ride-hailing service in Indonesia. Owing to Gojek’s success in becoming a global unicorn is partly due to their employees embracing a culture of learning powered by curiosity. This is because it’s not enough for the modern leader to find answers, but to use their curiosity to find the right questions to tackle.

Here are three recommendations from Susan to build a curiosity-led learning culture that not only meets the needs of employee engagement, but also answers to an organisation’s business goals.

1. Dare to learn about anything

The key to becoming an inquisitive learner is to create psychological nudges that make us more accountable and responsible for our own learning.

To create this nudge, Susan recommends we frequently ask ourselves one simple yet powerful question: What are we curious about?

The great thing is that the topic we want to learn about need not be work-related. Anything goes. Are you looking to learn how to manage your time more effectively, pick up a new language, or strengthen your emotional intelligence? These are all valid areas you can start with.

Fundamentally, Susan says, any learning driven by curiosity is going to help you to be better in your job because you are activating the muscle of thinking and curiosity. Learning that happens in our personal lives will naturally permeate into the context of our professional work.

2. Learn from the context of your role

More often than not, we focus on the content of what we are going to learn, but ignore the context in which learning happens. With digital learning and the internet, content is widely available and always accessible, but is it relevant to our learning needs?

Different people under different roles have different learning needs, which can vary due to:

  • the employee’s level of experience in the industry;
  • their ability to do their job will within their functional roles (such as sales, marketing, and so on);
  • and their level of competency in work-related soft skills like communication and critical thinking.

Identifying the top skills you need to instill in yourself or your employees might be challenging. Even so, Susan believes this isn’t an issue if you take a data-driven approach.

To identify the skill gaps of a team or person, Susan suggests to first look at your business’s data and metrics. For example:

  • What does sales performance look like at your organisation?
  • What is the turnaround time for certain operational processes?

By identifying problem areas in different parts of the business, we can identify the skills and knowledge gaps of employees. Perhaps a lack of presentation skills is what’s pulling down sales performance, or maybe better design thinking skills can pave the way for innovative ideas and streamlined processes.

In this way, an organisation’s business metrics also act as the measurement for monitoring and improving people’s growth—meaning that learning is not only a way to keep employees motivated, it also results in tangible business outcomes.

3. Learn and grow as a community

Last but not least, Susan recognises that some people find it difficult to learn, because they are “too busy with work”. To remedy this, Susan suggests giving a different behavioural nudge, one that comes from others. 

After all, as children we all learned by observation and imitation of social interactions, long before we could learn by reading. Even as adults, this evolutionary trait remains.

From Susan’s experience of building learning environments, she found that people tend to share what they learned if it proved to be useful to them.

Knowing this, Susan devised a way to create that nudge for social learning: every Friday, the company will send out an invitation to everyone to take part in what they call the Learning Hour, where employees set aside one hour to learn.

And during working hours on Friday, people are encouraged to share their learnings. As a result, the number of people engaged in learning at Gojek increased by 20 percent.

In the end, it’s not about what you learn, but building a consistent habit of openness and curiosity that will take you far in life and in career.


Join us at the next Power Lunch Hour. The virtual Power Lunch Hour at NewCampus is a series of lunchtime group mentoring sessions with experienced industry leaders, influencers and gamechangers over Zoom. They share insights into their personal and professional journeys in small-group interactive sessions, driven by discussion and Q&A with participants.

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