Why C In C-Suite Should Stand For Curiosity

By on August 11, 2016 in

Following a strategic review of our own organisation, we undertook a values assessment led by an external facilitator. It has had a compelling impact, aligning behaviours and providing a reference point, when we otherwise do not know which path to take in a difficult decision.

Values are how we explain our culture to new hires and how we guide new leaders.We know many of our client firms that embrace a values centred culture do likewise. Values act as cornerstones on which vision, team hiring, self-management and planning for delivery can be set.

“Curiosity” is a core value for HRM. Our purpose is not about delivering talent, but about delivering the very best talent to client organisations. The research, reach, evaluation and negotiation that form part of our process, demand high curiosity. Who is the best talent? Why? Where are they to be found? Why are they the best fit? Why would they move? What approach would appeal to them? What might prevent that move? What might enhance the prospect of that move? Curiosity is the bedrock to great talent acquisition results.

Curiosity is behind the waves of game changing start-ups, altering all aspects of how we live.We saw this up close recently while working on a leadership talent acquisition programme with the passionate people at Ireland’s largest start-up accelerator, NDRC. Passion and curiosity make a powerful combination.

“Shift your focus from what you want (to be a billionaire) and get deeply, intensely curious about what the world needs” Justine Musk.

The South African entrepreneur Elon Musk, collected $400,000,000 in deposits for the new Tesla Model C, a car that will not go in to production until 2017. He faces serious manufacturing and customer experience scalability challenges. Imagine the strength of curiosity behind that disruption to the automotive industry. Musk’s ex-wife, Justine, when asked about how to become a billionaire, encouraged the interested party to “shift your focus from what you want (to be a billionaire) and get deeply, intensely curious about what the world needs”.

Author Warren Berger, in reviewing PWC’s 2015 Annual CEO Survey, quotes Michael Dell who when asked what attribute CEO’s will most have to demonstrate in the turbulent times ahead, replied “I would place my bet on curiosity”. Berger believes we have entered the era of the curious leader, a time where success may be less about having all the answers and more about asking all the right questions.

Curiosity must transcend all levels of leadership. If we simply continue to demand that managers just fix problems, they can only do so within the limits of their current knowledge. Enterprises that encourage and evaluate managers for their curiosity seem destined to perform better. This is not a new concept, Chris Argyris described these firms 40 years ago as being learning organisations.

Transitioning to being a curious leader is challenging. Curiosity is a habit that requires time and support, often in the face of conflicting demands. It requires personal confidence along with the ability to be comfortable with ambiguity and insecurity. Curiosity can feel threatening to others, not least as it is central to effective change.

Given the complex and unpredictable landscapes that face us all, curiosity has become the essential C-Suite competency.

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