This month's issue: The Value of Curiosity.
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A Newsletter from Creative Ventures

Issue #102

On The Nature of Curiosity

From Curie to Couseau, from DaVinci to Delorean, and from Joni (Mitchell) to Jobs, all had that one thing that made them see the world a little differently, question convention, and push limits. They were curious.

Sure, they were creative and some had a large amount of business acumen, but it was their curiosity that provided them with boundless opportunity. DaVinci wanted to know how the human body worked and Joni Mitchell experimented with guitar open tunings that changed music forever. 



I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. 

-Albert Einstein

Curiosity is not for the childish, though a good hunk of neoteny surely helps. You should be interested in pushing a curiosity agenda because, plain and simple, it's PROFITABLE!
We humans are an innately curious species, yet the daily grind of our lives seems to provide a dampening effect on our interest in new things. Attention, wonder, and questioning are all key aspects of being curious. By keeping our heads down and plowing forward we continue to focus on what we know, on the things of familiar comfort. We need curiosity to prompt us to raise our vision and to notice unusual things. 

To be curious is to be in a state of active interest. Curiosity stretches our understanding and allows us to see things others would miss. Curiosity is a business fundamental, and the more curious you and your organizations are, the more you will discover new leverage and applications. It is how we learn new things. 

The core of the curiosity dilemma is that most of us don't think being curious has value. That's CRAZY thinking! We live in a great time to be curious, a time when technology and questioning have found a common ground and our ability to study and examine anything is just a click away. If you are curious about quantum mechanics (who isn't?), you can discover it is all about "a mathematical framework that helps us make sense of the smallest things in nature... protons, neutrons and electrons."

A summary of over 200 studies involving 50,000 primary, secondary, and college students discovered that curiosity plays a HUGE role in the success of students at all age levels. Human resource consulting giants Deloitte and McKinsey have recently identified curiosity as one of the main hiring characteristics to add to your search criteria!

We often think of curiosity as a gift of artists, scientists, inventors, children or writers, and that's easy to understand. We see curiosity as an individual trait, not as an organizational imperative. People are curious, companies aren't. Thats a mistake

Disney, 3M, NASA, and Phillips & Company all thrive on nurturing and adding revenue by producing leverage through curiosity. Proctor and Gamble had found that less than 10% of their ideas were from external sources, so they set a goal to double that within 18 months by offering, what they termed, "project questions" to an open source community. They saw great results, including the leverage of external ideas around the Febreze product that turned it into $1 billion brand. They were simply curious about the ideas of others, but the rest of us never think about using our curiosity as a strategic tool. We are so caught up in the microscopic focus on our very specific industry that the curiosity that blazes by in our peripheral vision is blocked by our single-market blinders.

The sad part is that what is happening just outside our vision is full of opportunities and ideas that can provide us significant marketing position.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Never lose a holy curiosity. 
- Albert Einstein


Do This!

In 2012 we had three clients engage in what has become our BEYOND SERIES, a strategic platform designed to introduce new ideas "beyond" a client's specific industry. If you are interested in creating a value add program to protect your best clients, it would make sense to look beyond your industry and study the best value add programs in other industries. Be curious. What can we adapt to our goals? Here are a couple of action points from our BEYOND SERIES: 
  • SEARCH:  If you want new ideas, you have to look in new places. Discovery is a process. Start in a place of comfort. If you are driven to sources of information by electronic means, subscribe to some new web-based resources. Try for interesting stuff, or follow forward thinkers like Guy Kawasaki or NOVA on Twitter. If you are old school and like to read print, try a subscription to Fast Company or Wired magazine. Maybe you're a Wall Street Journal or USA Today type person.  t I keep an idea journal in our den and jot down things from TV (a good source of curious stuff). It doesn't matter what or how, only that you begin the search for things that interest you, and you will rapidly light the flame of curiosity. 
  • CAPTURE: It is a huge step toward creating value around curiosity when you capture those things that you find interesting. Capture is about grabbing ideas and giving them a home, a place you can find them. Here again, it does not matter how you do it, just that you DO IT. You can grab and store things electronically. Create an idea/curious folder (hard copy or on the computer desktop) and dump those things you think are interesting in the folder. I'm old school and have used "idea journals" for over 30 years. I capture ideas in these journals and I always keep one within arm's reach. Recently I was curious about a major cancer research hospital that has a 10 year plan, but the plan pursues only ONE idea each year. This idea supports our OLA (One Level Above) strategy. Capture your curiosity. 
  • VALUE:   Is being curious of real value to you? How would you determine its value? Do you need an immediate dollar value return? That's a tough metric. Try this: time. Are you willing to devote some time to a curiosity endeavor? Will you give some time to reading outside your comfort zone? I mean business time. Challenge your team to a curiosity initiative. Have them look beyond their duties to find things that interest them. Dedicate some time at your regular meetings to share one curiosity item. Then challenge your team to come up with ideas on how to leverage the shared item. Using this formula we helped a client discover a new way to connect to their one-time user clients and turn them into repeat customers. The idea came from the airline industry and we applied it to the industrial chemical business. Give curiosity some value time. 


THE WEIRD LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES:    After the downfall of Medellin cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar, most of his assets were seized. One asset in particular proved to be a big problem, his huge private zoo. For a while the public was allowed to wander through and see the wide variety of exotic animals. Then, most were given to zoos, except the pod of hippos (hippopotami). Left in their soupy lake, the hippos bred like rabbits until they got too big for their home water, knocked down the fence, and discovered hippo paradise in the Magdalena River. Hippos are a very dangerous species and kill more people than any other mammal (you can win a few bar bets with that fact). The Columbians are trying to move them but have discovered that a hippo is damn hard to move!

THE RACE IS ON:   For the 10th year in a row, Coke, Pepsi, and even Dr. Pepper (say it ain't so, Doc!) have reported declines in sales. Though soft drink sales are still a $130 billion business, the steady drop has not gone unnoticed. Sugary soft drinks are linked to obesity and diabetes, while artificial sweetener in diet drinks is beginning to scare the bejeebers out of us. So the race is on to find a perfect new sweetener. It has to taste like sugar, be lower in calories, and be natural. Food scientists are sweating over the very combination of plant-like materials you can imagine. Speaking of curiosity, it will be the main ingredient in generating these sweet dreams. Without a new sweetener technology there will be no change in the downward spiral in this bubbly market!

BOOM!:  Though many of the explosions you see in today's action films are created through computer magic, there is still a place for the real kaboom! Jim Schwalm is the explosions maestro and special effects guru of big time explosive Hollywood Mayhem. His pyrotechnics and FX company continues to grow, with recent gigs on the Spiderman, The Transformers, and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises. He is a master of curiosity, and his experiments with the visual impact of explosions have made us jump in our theater seats. A couple of examples include adding a bag of dry cement to the top of an exploding vehicle to create a dust storm and, removing the engine from the car to allow the explosion to carry it over 120 ft. in the air! Though the shift to green screen effects is huge, there will always be a place for someone who is a master of the craft of blowing things up!
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