Curiosity

“It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education” – Albert Einstein

Do you recall what a curious child you were? Always asking questions, hungry for new information and seldom satisfied by the first answer you received, driving those “eye-rolling” adults insane with all the “why” questions.

Then at around 9 years old, you become that adult, the one that has all but lost their lively curiosity. Somewhere on the journey you were told that answers were far more valuable than questions and poof, just like that, life becomes all about having the answers. Over time, you become so committed to your view of the world, to your answers, that asking you to consider something different is frequently met with extraordinary resistance, almost as if you were being asked to prance around naked.

What you were not told though was that very little was ever discovered, built or imagined without a healthy dose of curiosity. Can you imagine what the state of innovation would be without curiosity, that inquisitive interest that insists on removing the traditional safe lenses through which you assess people and the world around you; the same ones often ruffling feathers – yours and others?

How would you know if someone was being curious? Well, they ask questions frequently, specifically why questions.

Einstein said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious”.

Best Buys

The story below provides some insight into what becomes possible when curious questions are asked, even in what may initially appear to be a hopeless situation.

Best Buys, a company started in 1966 in Minnesota, United States, is an electronics store specialising in high fidelity goods. Without dragging you through the entire history of Best Buys I will move quickly to a time in the company’s history when they were primarily selling TV’s, cell phones etc, a time during which revenues were under severe pressure. All the glitter and gold of the past decades of success was suddenly at risk, requiring an immediate leadership intervention. After weeks of analysis, it was discovered that although their stores continued to attract high volumes of shoppers, the customers were coming in to get a physical experience of the product (the look and feel) and then they left to purchase the product from Amazon at a lower price. Not an ideal situation for Best Buys, as you can well imagine.

What would you do?

Imagine your business was facing this situation. What questions would you be asking? What strategies would you be considering?

In Best Buys case they first considered the traditional options (1) change in price or (2) improved service. Unfortunately, any reduction in price would not be sustainable given the high fixed costs associated with their retail store footprint. Improving service levels would increase costs, resulting in customers enjoying the improved service and still buying from Amazon at a lower price.

Neither of these strategies would work and for a moment it seemed that Best Buys were on their way to meet Kodak on the junkyard of yesterday’s heroes. That is until certain team members started asking very different questions, ones which had their roots in curiosity and not in the need to solve the immediate pressing problem.

What did they ask?

  1. Would customers miss Best Buys if they closed? The answer was yes, because where else would they get to touch, feel and experience these products? Could you then charge customers to enter your store? Probably not a great strategy.
  2. Would the manufacturers miss Best Buys if they closed? Well yes, because where else will customers experience their products.

The answer for Best Buys was to start charging manufacturers for renting space from them in their retail stores. This decision totally changed how they compete and how they capture value.

I share this story because very often our lives are begging us to stop and become more curious about where we are, where we going and why we are doing any of this in the first place. These are questions often only considered when life throws you an unexpected curveball. Best Buys would not have asked these questions had a curveball not rendered their business model entirely outdated.

Don’t wait for the curveball to come flying around the corner before you become a little more curious about your one precious life.

If you keep asking the same questions, you are likely to keep getting the same answers. Unfortunately, this ensures that your life repeats the patterns of the past.

What curious questions could you consider asking?

  • About your life
  • Your career
  • Your dreams how you spend your time
  • Who you are in the process of becoming

What makes a curious question so powerful? 🧐

The words you use to construct a curious question emanate from a place that does not assume to already have the answers. It’s a place where you do not naturally spend much time and going there will require a deliberate decision.

It will be fun though.

It will be time well spent.

“The future belongs to the curious ones “.-

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