A corporate culture that promotes both curiosity and agility could be one of the keys to warding off the threat of disruptors, according to new research.

The research, which was commissioned by Rackspace, is an extension of an earlier study on why it pays for organisations to tap into the “curiosity” of their employees.

This year, the study looks at whether curiosity can drive revenue growth or “other business outcomes”, and how an organisation’s curiosity relates “to its ability to survive and succeed in an era of intense change and competition.”

“We recognise that curiosity is intangible, difficult to measure, and only the first step in something that one day, may see significant change or success,” Rackspace said in a preface for its research.

“Most businesses are fearful of investing resources in the ‘what if’.

“Certainly we see investment in R&D or innovation labs but typically it is around ideas that have been fleshed out, ideas that already have corporate buy-in and are therefore more likely to be a sure bet.

“It is the process of generating those ideas through the simple act of being curious as part of the everyday [that is important].”

Rackspace said there was a clear result in this year’s research.

“To succeed today and to stay alive in the future, organisations must be curious,” it said.

“Those that aren’t are in danger of being overtaken by agile new competitors that embrace and nurture the ‘what if?’”

The research found a common thread among disrupters.

“They start with a few simple questions: what do we see happening in the world that gives us an opportunity, and why is that important? Then they keep asking why, pushing reset every day on these questions, because success is rare without significant failure,” it said.

“The curious companies of today will be the winners of tomorrow, and the next day and the day after that. Why? Because they never stop asking why, they embrace failure and they thrive in discomfort. They stay curious.

“The more curious a business, the more likely they are to seek out developing trends and collaborate with others to understand them, rather than react once they are mainstream.”

Business leaders surveyed as part of the study agreed it was important to work “with demonstrably curious organisations to achieve their goals.”

The research also noted that if businesses were to reap the rewards of curiosity, they also needed to be agile. It said that agile businesses could more easily recognise threads of opportunity and act on them.

According to the Harvard Business Review, there are several ways that businesses can cultivate curiosity in their corporate cultures.

This may include a directive for people “to explore new paths and to challenge their assumptions and themselves” – and the provision of tools to help them do so.

It may also mean changing the way you approach things – meetings, for example – and widening corporate perspectives on professional development and the payback for the organisation from it.

Thomson Reuters and Cisco have published similar tips on how they brought curiosity into the core of their respective workplace cultures.