The word curiosity is open to interpretation. The idiom curiosity killed the cat is a warning of the dangers of unnecessary investigation and experimentation. But it is my belief that executives actually need to be curious — constantly challenging themselves and others.
That’s what it takes to stay relevant and competitive. Growth and comfort do not coexist.
Here are a few tips you can follow to stay curious, remain relevant, be competitive and grow.
Avoid Getting Too Comfortable
Every time I have gotten comfortable in a role, I knew I had two choices. I could continue to coast. Or I could challenge myself to build new muscle and learn something new. I could change roles and jump back in the deep end of the pool, and I could try to figure out how to swim fast.
Business development leaders have the same choice. They can continue to challenge themselves, or they can stick with the status quo. The company leaders that get too comfortable ultimately run into problems.
Organizations that aren’t viewed as creative, innovative growth companies often struggle to attract the best talent. Because they can’t hire and retain top talent, such companies may lose relevance with their clients and the business will suffer. It’s a double-edged sword. Avoid these problems — and move forward — by getting out of your comfort zone and staying curious.
Reevaluate All The Time
The best business leadership teams are constantly reevaluating, reassessing and raising the bar on themselves. These leaders continue to ask themselves: What can we do better, different, more?
Ask yourself these same questions. Consider whether you really know your customers. Analyze whether you are delivering outstanding experiences to both your customers and employees.
Are you constantly challenging yourself? Are you innovating and transforming your company? Are you open to new ideas? Are you learning as much from your mistakes as you do from your successes? Stay sharp and competitive by asking — and working to address — such questions.
Seek Outside Help When Needed
Question whether you have the needed internal capabilities and competencies to create competitive differentiation. If not, seek help from an external partner with that expertise.
Understand that your partner doesn’t necessarily need to have sector-specific experience. Businesses across all sectors have been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and digital technology. The competencies you will likely require transcend industry boundaries.
Every business today is essentially a technology business. For example, banks are not simply in the financial services industry. Rather, banks are technology companies that use data and insights to make fast decisions that make money.
Peel Back The Onion
Engage with a partner that has a point of view and will be transparent with you. Select an advisor that isn’t afraid to ask a lot of questions and has strong listening skills.
This will enable your partner to better understand your business. It will also help you to peel back the onion. Use curiosity from internal and external stakeholders to better understand your clients, markets, competitors, value proposition and the secret sauce that makes you special.
This is important because people don’t always say what they mean. Asking questions and listening closely helps uncover what drives behaviors and the problems you need to solve. If you don’t understand the motivation or an issue, your solution will invariably miss the mark.
Ensure Everybody Is Aligned
Look for a partner whose success is dependent on your success. This ensures that your measures of success are aligned. Make sure your partner is willing to learn and grow with you.
Some managed services providers (MSPs) sweat bullets over their customer contracts. But if your MSP has to check the contract to see if it includes what you need, you’re not aligned.
Be aware that initial expectations and requirements will inevitably change over time. Choose an agile partner that will adapt the relationship and your solution to reach your desired outcomes.
Focus On Insights And Outcomes
Your business already has lots of data, and that can lead to information overload. Rather than contracting an outsider that will produce more information, choose a partner that delivers insights and understands the power of technology to enable business innovation and success.
A partner that takes the time to understand your business, has needed competencies, asks questions and has a point of view can deliver business outcomes rather than just widgets. This reminds me of The Wizard of Oz line, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” You want a partner that can deliver the magic without getting lost in technology and other details.
Let The Challenge Begin
If you’re not already challenging yourself, now is a great time to get started. The pandemic disrupted almost every business, but the economy is back in growth mode. Take this opportunity to reimagine what’s possible and increase your growth opportunities.
It’s okay to be curious and to ask more questions every day. In fact, I recommend it.
This article first appeared in Forbes.