What is 7427466391?
Imagine if you saw this on a billboard along your commute route …
What would you do? Roll your eyes, think this is nonsense, tell others about it, or go to the site and find out what’s going on?
The curious solved the equation (answer: 7427466391.com) and went to the site, where they found another equation. The few who solved it learned the secret to the strange billboard. It was actually a recruitment ad for Google, and they were invited to submit their resumes. As Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO, once put it, “We run this company on questions, not answers.” Google was looking for the trait of curiosity.
But curiosity isn’t just important at innovative tech companies. It’s also key for sales success. Top salespeople ask prospective clients lots of questions to get to the real problem. They work collaboratively with their sales team, customer service team, product team, marketing team—you name it. These top reps aren’t lone rangers. When they get curious, they bring the brain trust of the company together to solve the prospective client’s problems and win deals. And together, they all achieve sales success.
That’s why I was fascinated to read Francesca Gino’s research in her HBR post: “The Business Case for Curiosity.” She says that curiosity can be cultivated, and it breeds creativity (yet another key trait for sales success). Most importantly, she has found a direct correlation between curiosity and job performance. She describes the challenges to advocating for curiosity and five distinct ways to bolster curiosity in companies.
It’s a long article, but worth a close read. Here’s a snippet:
The Business Case for Curiosity
Most of the breakthrough discoveries and remarkable inventions throughout history, from flints for starting a fire to self-driving cars, have something in common: They are the result of curiosity. The impulse to seek new information and experiences and explore novel possibilities is a basic human attribute. New research points to three important insights about curiosity as it relates to business. First, curiosity is much more important to an enterprise’s performance than was previously thought. That’s because cultivating it at all levels helps leaders and their employees adapt to uncertain market conditions and external pressures: When our curiosity is triggered, we think more deeply and rationally about decisions and come up with more-creative solutions. In addition, curiosity allows leaders to gain more respect from their followers and inspires employees to develop more-trusting and more-collaborative relationships with colleagues.
Second, by making small changes to the design of their organizations and the ways they manage their employees, leaders can encourage curiosity—and improve their companies. This is true in every industry and for creative and routine work alike.
Third, although leaders might say they treasure inquisitive minds, in fact most stifle curiosity, fearing it will increase risk and inefficiency. In a survey I conducted of more than 3,000 employees from a wide range of firms and industries, only about 24% reported feeling curious in their jobs on a regular basis, and about 70% said they face barriers to asking more questions at work.