3 Steps to Nurturing a Curious Company
To me, curiosity is about coming to a customer conversation with humility and an open mind. This prevents the possibility of any preconceived notions when first addressing a business problem. By providing the space to be non-judgemental and very open in our initial approach.
It is important to understand a customer’s business pain points before formulating what solutions and services are appropriate. Curiosity is key in this approach. We need to be asking questions such as: What is this customer really in business for? What do they do? What do they make and what do they deliver? Do they see value through their customer’s eyes and can we add value on top of this in some way, shape or form?
When it comes to translating what this looks like in real terms, three key themes stand out:
1 - Collaboration: businesses must collaborate to identify and make sense of weak signals. Leaders who work with curious partners find it easier to determine which new trends will have an impact on their industry.
2 - Outward looking: too often we are enveloped in the immediate world we can control and are comfortable in. We know we need to get out from behind the desk and explore new horizons but we don’t always have a compelling picture around why.
Think of Netflix; a DVD rental company that saw how improving internet speeds could change the movie game. The result? They moved into a streaming video on demand and became a globally recognised name, now creating their content and worth US$34 billion.
3 - Inspire curiosity: Over the years as a Microsoft partner, I’ve seen how fostering a curious company helps drive competitive advantage. For this to work effectively, managers and executive leaders need to encourage the curiosity of their employees across the business to up-level their position in the market.
Curiosity isn’t something that should sit solely with the executive team, it should be an effort across all levels of the organisation. You and your team live and breathe your trade, and are the most in-tune to potential influencers or industry movement that could affect operations in the long term. This also means being comfortable with failure. It is how we learn, change and grow. Inspiring others to be curious every day means offering an environment that is safe and supportive and celebrates lessons learned as achievements to grow from. What could this look like for your teams and colleagues?
For us, we have a monthly meeting with global Rackspace and Microsoft Azure teams with these key elements of success in mind. Collaboration between the two companies has led to the discovery and fostered innovation. As an example, in the past, we had limited visibility over the different parts of the business, especially when it came to understanding how it would impact the bottom line. Through an initiated program, called AGI, we’ve focused on sharing open-access to all parts of the business – allowing us to seek out new opportunities and ideas to grow our customer’s outcomes. Having this collaboration and space speaks directly to our partner alliance.
Another key example stemming from curiosity is Microsoft’s creation of a new commerce platform. It’s important to Microsoft’s business to understand how their customers interact with cloud. Often, cloud software can be created in silos, which makes transacting quite complex when it shouldn’t be. Microsoft created a platform so their customers can transact Cloud services with as little complexity as possible. They used curiosity to innovate their systems and make the user experience better and more enjoyable for all.
We now know that highly curious, agile businesses are more effective at identifying trends that may affect their business. These businesses reported higher revenue growth, customer loyalty, customer experience, partner satisfaction, and employee satisfaction than those who were less curious.
Conversely, businesses that demonstrated low curiosity values find it more difficult to determine how new technological, social and economic developments will change their business or industry. They are also less effective at achieving positive business outcomes. Organisations that cling too closely to accepted wisdom, proven processes, and ‘the way things have always been done’ will be left behind by those who thrive in the disruption.