“Millions saw apple fall, but Newton asked why” - Bernard Baruch
We often notice the most unusual things but never venture further to explore. Wouldn’t you agree? From being highly energetic and mindful, our minds have begun to settle into a very comfortable patterned way of thinking. Due to this, we have lost the ability to question the unknown. We tend to accept and then be satisfied with the obviously stated. When was the last time we asked our customer, ‘why’ or ‘why not’?
As per a survey, plenty of organizations firmly believed that they have a good understanding of their customers’ expectations. The sad truth is that they are woefully disconnected. Most customers feel that their vendors do not fully understand them and more importantly, do not really care about their needs. The ability to probe can not only help bring about clarity in a customers need, it will also bring the implied needs to the surface. We develop our questioning attitude by being curious. This skill can eradicate any preconceived assumptions and help us move from the known to the unknown. Contrary to our fear, questioning can help the customer to self-check their needs, the status quo and redundancies.
Curiosity is a personal quality of being open to observe and then to explore, analyze and learn. Psychologists recognized this as an indissoluble mixture of cognition and motivation. This is the combination that the customers look forward to as our customer universe is a more challenging place today from what we saw in past decade. Studies attribute this to VUCA-environment (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) due to which they look out for higher potential even in high performing vendors. Curious minds score high points on potential. More often than not, customers appreciate the expertise but they see potential only in ideators.
Ideas lead to innovation and an innovator is a rain-maker for an organization. Our curiosity can be a sure source of effervescence of ideas therefore. While looking for curious people, our customers may not offer an exception to us. Let us look at some of crosscurrents that impede curiosity in us:
Contentment: A study says that 42% of people never read another book after graduation. This hinders knowledge acquisition and keeps us outmoded. Being curious, new learning may encourage us to try new ways of doing things whereas the status quo in learning may prove counterproductive. Such a psychological block deters learning from varied sources and can cause depleted mental agility and curiosity.
Living in a silo: While we work with our customer, we tend to lock ourselves into an outsider mode and this mindset impairs our ability to gather insights of the customer’s way of doing things. On the other hand, we should be curious to enable the customer by finding and filling gaps of where is customer is and the final goal post. Without being curious how can one find gaps?
Risk Aversion: It is possible that we may have the fear of the unknown. This fear oftentimes reinforces our inability to move past the status quo and in turn our ability to create value is stunted. In the grip of this fear, people prefer to settle with traditional ways or safe methods of doing things which does not lead to being curious and lead to depleted new thinking and innovation. Thus, customer may not see value in it.
Obsessive Subservience: Some prefer to be process-subservient and policy-directed and therefore lack instincts to question - first step of being curious. Being human-designed, processes over a period of time cannot remain fault-free. With changing times, even the context changes making process context-insensitive. On the contrary, customers expect us to make them aware of the changes well in advance to remain competitive. Curious minds tap these changes well ahead of time and help the customer to take advantage of this information.
Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious”. Thankfully, one can develop this compelling skill of curiosity by:
Self-evaluation: Often, we need to ask ourselves, “When did I last probe my customer?” Probing leads to new questions and can trigger a zeal in us to do something more worthwhile. Our customer will appreciate our well-intended zest and value our presence.
Being empathic to our customer: Empathy starts with understanding. Be curious to gain as much knowledge as possible about our customer’s ecosystem. This will help us to appreciate the customer’s perception and see things from their view. We will soon start working on cures and prophylaxes for the customer’s pains leaving scope for them to appreciate our presence.
Flexing our minds: Automating the mind to start with asking basic curiosity questions Why, When, Who, What, Where and How in every customer instance. These questions make one curious and develop diverse taste and interest. This creates an urge to learn (and unlearn) more. Such a learning can be applied to derive customer benefit.
Being bold to question the ‘As-Is’: Let’s remember that change is constant. Whereas only the curious mind has something to find. View at all possible things with an aim to mitigate redundancy. Develop skill to be assertive, communicate pleasantly and convince the customer that there is a need for change. A lifelong-learning habit enriches the knowledge to identify innovative solutions and solve problems paving way for our customer to perceive us as retainable resources.
Measuring our CQ: We can create a set of 15 or 20 questions on which we may want to assess ourselves periodically. There are many researchers from Harvard who share information on this topic in social media. This will help us to be relevant by being curious.
Einstein said, “Never lose a holy curiosity.” It is the time we took a call, whether to hide from a whining customer or to relish a treat of wine from the customer. When the curious-you innovates something for the customer making him succeed in his pursuits he will reciprocate to prove, as they say, success breeds success.