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Professionals should play outside more

Everyone is familiar with buzzwords like creativity and innovation, but what is the absolute core of both? According to Wouter Kersten of Generous Minds, The New ABC (Always Be Curious), and "Outlier" of Outside Inc., it is all about curiosity.

In these dynamic times with a great demand for thinking differently, creativity and innovation are increasingly popular and necessary skills. Often ‘differently’ is associated with new ideas. And eventually that seems true enough. But what are ‘new ideas’? Almost everything is a remix, so we rather seem to be talk about new combinations. How do you create these? By asking different questions. And that basically means being curious. 

So, asking questions. Typically, not something people do when they are efficiently developing solutions and making prototypes to test quickly. Still, it is very important to realise that even the best answer to a bad question or wrongly formulated problem in the end has little value. 

My purpose is to encourage organizations to be more curious in their entire innovation process, but certainly at the start to make sure you are starting from the right question. If you then involve others, also people outside of your inner circle, you create an even better breeding ground for this. Curiosity and combining perspectives, these are the core ingredients for progress as far as I’m concerned. 

All entrepreneurship demands professional curiosity

I am involved with two organizations that apply these principles. And while they have different core processes, organizing intrapreneurship programmes(outside inc) and supporting good business(Generous Minds), these revolve around the same themes. For Generous Minds the Covestment method focuses on guiding good business companies in staying curious. Employees, managers and even owners in fact learn to rediscover their organizations by means of reconnecting with their purpose and innate curiosity. Innate, because as children we were all curious. To prevent that this rediscovery is just a one-time exercise, “entrepreneurial curiosity” has to become part of the DNA. 

In my mind, upgrading the relevance of questions instead of jumping to (often ill-informed) answers can be the engine for that. I call this the Inquisitive Organization. Consider “Not Knowing (yet)” as a reason to ask more curious questions instead of allowing it to become a source of panic and disempowerment. Recent books that I read and support this stance are for example A Curious Mind about the power of Curiosity and Not Knowing, about the beauty of “Not knowing”.

If you apply this type of thinking to a process of starting or transitioning to good business, what types of questions does that raise with me?

  • Who decides what “good” is? What happens if the call to (innovation) action is formulated by more than just the core management team?
  • What drives employees? What would happen if you would collect insights from a larger group with regards to the the focus for the organization? A similar point is made in the recent HBR-article Better Brainstorming: “By making questions more important than (immediate) answers and ideas you can work around prejudice and assumptions better, providing openings to new ways of thinking”. And in the latest issue the “surprising power of questions” is highlighted once more.
  • How do you create a good mix of not throwing overboard what you know with being inquisitive enough to critically ask yourself whether that still suffices to take next steps. And what if these steps would be a real departure from your first success? If you put “good business” high(er) on the priority list, what parts of the way you work and what you offer should really be reconsidered, sensitive as that may be? 
  • To get new ideas for innovative steps forward, everyone knows catch words like “brainstorming”, “out of the box” and “free association”. How would you feel about working with principles like “stay curious”, “forget that box altogether” and “create noise”? 

There are many more questions that can be raised. The pattern should be clear enough: to unleash (new) powers in an organization, you have to think differently. If curiosity is a core asset, this will happen automatically, and continuously. 

So: stop navel gazing, play outside, be curious, and talk to different people. Contact Generous Minds if you think you can use (inquisitive) covestment support in improving your “good business”. 

This is a slightly altered version of a blog that was originally published on the site of Outside Inc. Feel free to read that version as well. Reading both only illustrates the main point, that more professionals should play outside… Credits were credits are due: in an upcoming follow-up blog (Dutch) early May 2018, Outside Inc. explains more on their own vision on “playing outside”.