Category Archives: Business

Curiosity might have killed the cat…

…but for the previous eight lives she’d have had a lovely time finding out about all sorts of interesting stuff.

It’s funny how sometimes a word keeps popping into your consciousness. For me, right now, that word is: “curiosity” (definition: a strong desire to know or learn something).

I interview quite a lot of people, and many of them are relatively junior. Quite often, when I ask what questions interviewees have for me, they’ll want to know what qualities I look for in employees. Curiosity has become almost always the first one I mention.

Funnily enough, my mate Wadds was also mulling the qualities he looks for when interviewing people and came up with this list. I chucked my new watchword into the mix, and was rapidly seconded by the splendid Matt Muir with this beautiful example of straight-tweeting:

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I couldn’t agree more.

For people working in a creative agency (as I do) curiosity is not only essential in doing a good job, it’s critical in enjoying the one you do (which, let’s face it, are two things that should nicely align). I want people who are curious about what their clients do, what the clients’ objectives are – both organisationally and individually – what’s going on in their clients’ industries, what their clients’ customers are interested in. Asking questions often leads to opportunities I’ve found. “What do you need to achieve this year?” is a good place to start.

Curiosity is a hugely valuable human quality, both inside and outside the workplace. I’ve recently finished reading Ruby Wax’s book, “Sane New World” (which is excellent if you’re interested in your own and others’ mental health) and there it was again – the penultimate chapter, “Curiosity”. I liked these bits:

If you are curious about someone else, and show it, it is the most flattering thing you can do for them; they will give you anything; the keys to their car, their business, they’ll probably even marry you.

In business, if you learn to listen and be curious about another person and pay attention to how he feels, negotiations would be a breeze. Huge amounts of money, time and energy are wasted by people talking at each other rather than with each other. There should be training simply to learn to be curious rather than endless MBA programs. People are what sells, nothing else. You like and trust the person, you’ll do business with them and if you are genuinely curious, people won’t be able to resist you.

So, why not build a bit more curiosity into your day. What’s the worst that could happen? Unless you’re a cat.

 

 

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Book review: Culture Shock, by Will McInnes

ImageI’m not one for reviewing books, generally. The last thing I can remember reviewing, in fact, was a piece of direct mail from Rapha, and that was more than five years ago! But there are a number of reasons why I feel compelled to offer up my thoughts on Culture Shock, by Will McInnes, which are:

  • I’ve known Will for a while. Well, I say ‘known’. We’ve met, I think, twice and connect on Twitter and that, but I’ve been an admirer of his company, NixonMcInnes, and intrigued by some of the approaches to business that they’ve been experimenting with there and which obviously form the basis for much of the thinking in the book.
  • In keeping with much that he espouses in Culture Shock, Will approached writing the book in a very open and transparent way, publishing chapters as he drafted them on his site for comments and feedback. That I found very interesting from the start and though I can’t remember adding a great deal of value, Will’s been kind enough to mention me in the acknowledgements section of the final printed version!
  • Finally, I genuinely believe that the way businesses run themselves and reward and motivate their people needs to change over the coming decades and therefore a book with the strapline “A handbook for 21st century business” would seem to be one I should have a look at…

So all of that’s hardly going to lead to the world’s most unbiased review, right?

Right.

I loved the book. Will presents a perspective on building and running businesses which is hugely inspiring (and in the truest sense of the word, by making you determined to change behaviour and take action) but which also doesn’t shy away from the massive challenges inherent in tackling the inertia found in businesses that have been run in the same way for decades. This is no pie-in-the-sky vision of business utopia – one where employees are permanently happy simply through the emotional fulfilment of the workplace – but definitely shows how businesses can be run with an eye on both profits and purpose.

What really makes the difference for me, however, is the practical nature of the book. Yes, there’s plenty of theory but it’s balanced – if not outweighed – by examples of businesses big and small (including Will’s own) who are putting into practice the techniques and methods detailed throughout, along with plenty of specific actions we can all take to move towards the vision. There’s also shitloads of extra reading recommended by Will. I’ve already bought three other books.

Will’s passion truly comes through in Culture Shock’s pages. Half the time it feels like he’s shaking you by the shoulders and shouting at you to take action. Which is a bit scary, because he’s not a small fella.

If I were starting my own business (and who knows, now?) then a copy of Culture Shock would be given to every employee that walked through the door. And every client, customer and partner.

Nice one Will.

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