Having an overwhelming urge to learn and understand new things may seem like a distraction, but this sense of curiosity is actually crucial for business innovation. Instead of breaking your focus, curiosity can act like a laser beam to pinpoint your mind and efforts on what's working. It allows you to uncover new insights, keep an inventive spirit and remain flexible and resilient.
You need to remain curious if you want to stay solution-oriented. Constantly be on the lookout for problems and brainstorm products or services that could provide solutions. Investigate the processes and technologies of different industries and imagine ways to apply their solutions to a completely different industry or sector. Be curious about data insights to dig into what's working and why, as well as what's not working and why.
When you're curious, you gain knowledge and you're able to learn from the mistakes of others so that you don't waste time following the same learning curve. But most importantly, curiosity is not something that you should switch on and off whenever you think it's necessary. For best results, remain curious, imaginative and inventive at all times, even in everyday life. Here are some advantages of having a curious mind in the business world and some tips on how to cultivate curiosity.
Product and Service Innovation Requires Curiosity
Do you want your company to be at the forefront of product and service innovation? Inventing a product is relatively easy, but inventing a product that the masses will buy requires more finesse. You have to keep your focus on the kinds of problems that affect many people, and then strive to provide a solution. You can't accomplish this without a sense of curiosity, which helps you to pay attention to what's going on around you.
For best results, you have to get out of your own bubble and talk to different people. Be curious about their lives and the kinds of problems they run into on a daily basis. What's their number one priority or goal? What's their major struggle in life, and if they had a magic wand to drum up a solution, what would that solution look like?
If you can design a product or service that solves a problem, you instantly have a consumer base motivated to make a purchase. Of course, you'll still need to effectively market your solution, but the journey toward product innovation starts with a sincerely curious and imaginative mindset. You're essentially performing market research every minute of the day when you look at the world through a lens of curiosity. And when it comes to innovation, this habit can only be to your advantage.
App Search: An Easy Curiosity Exercise
For another example of how curiosity can aid in business innovation, think of the numerous apps on your smartphone. They are all designed to solve a problem, even if that problem is boredom. But have you ever searched the App Store or Google Play for an app that didn't exist? This represents the kind of information that should make you sit up and take notice.
What were you hoping to find? What features would have made the app useful? Would other people find the app helpful? Product innovation has been around for centuries, but app development has been around for only a decade, leaving you with plenty of untapped opportunities if you're curious enough to look for them.
But don't stop there: Now you need to take your curiosity to the next level and figure out what it takes to develop an app. Who are the best app developers? How much does it cost and how much money can you make from it? Investigate as much as possible to turn a simple idea into a viable business plan.
Curiosity and Data Insights
Having a curious mind can also come in handy when it comes to seeking out and analyzing data. Although it seems like curiosity and analytics belong on opposite ends of the spectrum, they actually go hand in hand. Being curious means asking questions, which is exactly what you need to do when performing an analysis.
For example, you might need to take a look at your business budget and cut out dead weight or reallocate funds to a project with great ROI. Or, your marketing efforts may need to be re-evaluated. Which methods generate traffic and which seem dead in the water? Why is your company struggling in this aspect when your competitors seem to be thriving?
Data points and key performance indicators can only paint a picture of your business's growth and progress if you're creative enough to put all the pieces together and interpret them appropriately. That requires you to be curious about what each data point means and how they fit together.
Two Major Questions to Ask
When you're a curious business owner, you may find yourself asking the same two questions over and over: What else could we do? What works for other people, especially our competitors? These two major questions can guide you on a journey of business innovation that allows you to revamp your processes, streamline operations and enjoy a successful small business.
Of course, you'll ask plenty of other questions along the way, but your curiosity will help you get to the root of your goal: learning how to run your business the best way possible. The processes you use to get there may vary, but will certainly include a competitor analysis and strategic planning.
What a Competitor Analysis Can Reveal
A competitor analysis will put you in your competitor's shoes and gain greater insight into their processes and key performance indicators. If they rake in more sales than you but you sell the same products, why are they more popular? Maybe they have a more robust marketing campaign or offer more coupons and sales opportunities. Whatever the difference, you need to know, and you can do so easily by signing up to receive their marketing materials in your inbox.
You can also take a look at how well they rank on Google for competitive search terms, the quality of their backlink profile, their domain authority and much more to gain an understanding of what works for them in terms of their SEO strategy. Does their website load faster than yours or have fewer technical errors? Understanding the nuts and bolts of your competitor's web presence requires you to be curious about how the web works.
Be curious about how they handle lead generation and funneling. What kind of social media content do they produce, and does it seem to be popular or successful? Do they run paid advertisements? You can use a plethora of digital tools to help you gain an understanding of your competitors' behind-the-scenes strategies if you're curious enough to ask questions and dig deep.
Strategic Planning Shows Opportunities
Performing a strategic analysis helps you answer the questions, "What else can we do and how can we do it?" The most popular strategic analysis is SWOT or TOWS, with the letters standing for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Your curiosity plays a major role in identifying possible opportunities for innovation and growth. Fortunately, these strategic analyses are best performed with a group of people, meaning you can combine your curiosity for the best results.
Some specific areas you can investigate for opportunities include your existing customers, potential customers, stakeholders, relationships with other businesses or even the community in general, product and service innovation, resources (including your talented employees) and policies and procedures. For example, are your procedures efficient or is there an opportunity to make them more effective in order to save time and money? Are there community events you could sponsor for increased exposure?
Stay on the lookout for possible opportunities in everyday life, even if all you have to hold on to is just a small thread. Have the courage to follow that thread and see where it leads. Some amazing partnerships or innovations could be waiting, if only you're curious enough to explore them. While courage is not a curiosity synonym, they do go hand-in-hand, so try to make improvements if you're naturally inclined toward one but not the other.
Improving Curiosity With Question Words
At this point, you may feel thoroughly convinced that curiosity does indeed have great importance in business innovation, but that this spells bad news for you because you're woefully un-curious. Curiosity does not come naturally to everyone. Some of us feel quite safe with the way things are and aren't interested in asking too many questions. However, if you want to reap the benefits of business innovation, this is a skill you should learn.
Fortunately, you just have to keep six words in mind: who, what, when, where, why and how. These six little words will guide you on your journey toward a more curious mind. The curiosity definition is a desire to find out more information, and you have to ask questions to do so. You can use these six words to preface questions about literally everything you come across, even the most mundane things.
Example of Using Question Words
To show how these question words can drum up curiosity and interesting findings, let's take a look at something you probably see every day without giving it a second thought: a public bus. The first question we might ask is, "Who uses a public bus?" This logically leads us to wonder, "Why do they ride the bus?" With just these two questions, you can use the answers to ask even more questions and identify problems that need solutions.
We might also wonder, "When does the bus arrive?" And if you're thinking in terms of problems and solutions, you would probably want to know whether the bus schedule is sufficient for riders or whether they wish the bus came more often. Asking, "Where does the bus take people and where does it not take people?" shows us a potential inequality gap that could be addressed.
If you want to think in terms of a competitor analysis, ask something like, "How much does it cost to operate the bus system in this city, and how much does it cost to operate alternative systems in other cities?" And for the final question word, you could ask, "What bus route is most popular?" For anyone who doesn't feel a natural talent for curiosity, stopping to think about these question words can be tremendously helpful.
Be Aware of Gaps
Be aware of gaps in what is currently available — what's missing and what would help bridge that gap?
It could be internally focused, like how to make your own business processes more streamlined and innovative by looking at the ways other industries do things. Or it could be that you want to innovate to change the entire industry by introducing a new technology that your peers can use.
Cathy Habas specializes in marketing, customer experiences, and behind-the-scenes management. Cathy has contributed to sites like Business and Finance, Business 2 Community, and Inside Small Business. She served as the managing editor for a small content marketing agency before continuing with her writing career.