Every company in the world started off as an idea and each idea was birthed from someone’s curiosity. In fact, if we take a quick glance through history, from the discovery of fire to space exploration and travel, we’ll find that most of the remarkable discoveries and breakthrough inventions were as a result of curiosity.
The need to know, to seek new experiences and information, to explore new possibilities is an intrinsic human attribute that we all possess. For some us though, we have lulled it by mundane routines and for others, well, we love things just the way they are.
For any forward-looking leader who wants to stir creativity in their business, creating curiosity_ not just for themselves but also for their employees_ should be at the top of their agenda. But how does one go about doing just that?
The Deep Dive for Curiosity _ Ask A ton of Questions
The global design company, IDEO, which has been in operation since 1991, has carved a name for itself as a leader in innovation and creative design thinking. Over the years, it has been involved in designing consumer products, from toothbrushes to computers. It has even designed a whole school system, the Innova Schools, from the ground up starting with the curriculum, the teacher training and even the school buildings.
Their focus on putting the consumer’s needs first is what has made them so successful as a design firm. In their quest to always create useful and relevant products for their consumers, they have always followed a simple principle: Ask as many questions to understand the consumers’ needs.
They pride themselves in their ability to temporarily set aside their ‘creative genius’ or years of successful design experience in the past as they approach each new project.
As Tom Kelly, a Partner at IDEO put it, “It’s a funny paradox. Though we are pretty confident in our ability to observe people and draw insights out of them, we pride ourselves on starting every project humbly__ and a little dumb. We don’t want to peek at the answers before we know the questions.”
If IDEO, a globally leading company, can put that ‘been there, done that, I know this’ attitude aside and ask questions to find what the customer really needs, so can you.
What you DO know could hurt you.
It might surprise you, but what you currently know often gets in the way of what you need to know, but don’t. When you think you know something, it’s very easy to get pulled into thinking that there is no longer a need to slow down and consider others’ viewpoints or even ask questions. That’s when the problems begin.
To understand this, let’s look at a popular household store that was having problems with sales in their electronics department. As the top management looked at the department’s finances, it was noted that after every 18 months to 2 years on the job, the top salespeople would suddenly have their sales numbers nose-dive. To try and solve this challenge, independent consultants were brought in and asked to evaluate the situation.
They watched the veteran salespeople and compared them to rookies and what they found was pretty interesting.
It turned out that about 6 months was how long it took for a rookie to familiarize themselves with everything about the product they were selling.
At the start, since the rookies didn’t know much about the products, they were very eager to keep the discussion focused on the customer and their needs. Having so little to tell, forced them to get really good at asking the customers great questions to keep the conversation going and that is what made their sales improve.
In contrast, once one understood the product, and settled in, i.e. became a pro or veteran, they stopped asking clients as many questions as they did when they were rookies. Whenever a customer came in, they would simply blab on about the benefits and features of the said product.
The management, in the end, concluded that product sales fell due to too much product knowledge.
They solved this problem by simply rotating salespeople every 15 to 18 months to a different department so as to keep the curiosity alive.
The way forward
You may sometimes find yourself in this veteran mode, where you have your cup too full of your beliefs and perceptions, that you are blind to brilliance if it’s not your own. In turn, you reject any new idea that pops us with statements such as ‘we have always done it this way’ or ‘that wouldn’t work.
Make room in your head for additional information that can improve on what you already know and what you’ve experienced.
My challenge to you is to relight your spark for curiosity whenever you deal with your customers by asking them questions that will lead to understanding them better. If you want to discover and explore new options ask yourself this simple question: Wouldn’t be cool if………………….?
It was enough to take a few guys to the moon and I am sure it will skyrocket your creativity as well.