On Feb 2nd, Seth Godin, god of marketing, asked me (via his blog feed in my inbox) "what if we were motivated by curiosity", instead of the desire to pass the test, win the business or get the promotion?
Right now, I am super curious. I started at Reason at the beginning of January, so this is my sixth week in my new job. Everything is interesting; the people I work with, the operating processes and everything that has been done in marketing up to now. If I am going to make a difference by being here, the first thing I need to do is learn what's here already.
Should you care if your team are curious? Surely you just want them to get on with their job?
Curiosity is a key skill when you're new. Evolutionarily, it keeps you safe, because you're alert. Psychologically, it helps you adapt fast enough not to feel isolated. Socially, it means you become part of the tribe. Often, I've found, you know it's time to move on (personally and in work) when you are no longer curious. We've all felt it; that eye-roll moment when you have to go over the figures, debrief after you lost a deal, or listen to the company update. Just like your personal life, if finding out new things no longer piques your curiosity, you're probably not going to be doing your best work.
"What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?"
Seth was talking about maintaining the curiosity to learn. He references cult movie Groundhog Day (quoted above), pointing out that the message of the film was that we should be the architect of our motivation (by finding things to be curious about) rather than expecting the world to constantly offer us something new. It's generally the sickness of my generation. We want to be entertained. Constantly. But in terms of staying curious at work, I don't think it's such a one way street.
What makes a curious employee?
Across the various sectors I've worked in, the thing that keeps me curious is the ethics of the business. If I can get behind the purpose motivating the company, I stay curious. I want to find the next thing to do to further our cause. I have learned that I can move mountains if I believe in what we are moving them for, and frankly, I will stick my heels in the ground and refuse to move one inch if I disagree with the ethics of the business. Deloitte ran a survey in 2015 that resulted 56% saying they wouldn't work for a company if their values didn't feel right to them.
Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.
Minor Myers, Jr.
Purpose has had a lot of press this month, AirBnB’s Alex Dimiziani claimed most companies have woken up to purpose being a defining factor in success, and so they are doing it for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps it's inevitable, in a world where we can measure the impact of promoting your "purpose", but not necessarily whether it's genuine or not.
I have worked for companies where I learned too late that their lauded and front-lined 'values' or purpose are hollow; cynically created to give an artificial impression of caring about what they do, or for the well-being and development of the team. The culture of the business does not match the values posted above the door, and in fact, any real sense of purpose ignores the values created from above. In this article from Marketing Week, Lucy Tesseras reminds us that purpose transcends trends. Changing your values to match a topic du jour is not a purpose; it's a marketing campaign. Your purpose might not be 'cool' at the moment, but you will be able to stand by it, and hopefully you won't need to apologise for it. Pepsi, I'm looking at you.
Is purpose worth it?
This diagram from a brand resilience report shows how pupose is only part of what makes people value a brand. It's simple really; listen to what makes people like your brand and make that your purpose. A stated purpose needs to be backed up with integrity from within the business, and delivery on those values - including awareness of the context your brand exists in and the way you're delivering your purpose in the real world).
It might not be headline-grabbing or data spiking, but it'll be real. And if I work for you, I will do my best work because I will stay curious.