A 2017 article, “Are You Solving the Right Problems?” published in the Harvard Business Review revealed that 85% of 106, C-suite executives across 17 countries, strongly agreed or agreed that their organisations were bad at diagnosing problems. Furthermore, 87% strongly agreed or agreed that this flaw carried significant costs.
In Australia, the share price of retail group Myer continues in a downward trend. Under pressure from the much-anticipated arrival of Amazon, Myer has launched a new online marketplace of local and international brands, Myer Market. Myer has a business problem however; the new marketplace does not appear to address existing customer problems, evident in its online customer reviews.
Look For The Silver Lining
While it is obviously vital for businesses to stand out and stay ahead of their competition today, this is becoming increasingly harder to do: especially if you’re a large organisation who isn’t as agile as a smaller start-up, or the likes of Amazon. Many businesses are investing time, effort, money and resources to come up with innovative ideas and solutions for problems that customers don’t have. The challenge for organisations is the incredible pressure placed on short-term results. Leaders are always chasing outcomes and immediate results. When a business problem arises, their reaction is to jump into finding a solution, without first checking if the problem they are setting out to solve might actually be an opportunity that will return the best investment. Leaders need to not only be able to articulate their business problems, such as falling revenues or portfolio decline, but also their most valuable customer problems.
The best commercial opportunities arise at the intersection of a business problem and a customer problem. Getting curious about this is the key to workplace innovation.
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Curiosity Fuels Innovation
Curiosity arises when there is a gap between what someone knows and what they want to know. That is, individuals are intrinsically motivated to seek out information. It is a mindset that can be activated. Curiosity is the fuel for inquiry, learning and discovery – that’s why it’s critical for organisational growth and innovation. When leaders are curious they look at how customer needs will change over the coming few years. They think about the biggest problems or pressures that their organisation is likely to face over the next few years. They see how all the current disruptions will feed into one another.
Understanding the Customer’s Experience
In today’s business world, leaders need to spend less time in the office and more time walking in the shoes of their customers. They need to find clues and collect artifacts that build a whole picture of their customers’ experiences. It is important to spend time discovering customers’ hopes, fears and values, and viewing the world through their eyes. And, noticing what delights them and observing their irritations, frustrations and pain points as they interact with the world around them. Leaders who curiously observe what people say, what they do, and seek to understand deeply what matters to them find the most valuable problems to solve.
Enabling Curiosity in the Workplace
When leaders create an environment of curiosity, they inspire their employees to ask questions, to learn, and to seek problems and solutions for themselves. When employees are curious, they are open to discovering new things, and this leads to better insights and platforms for problem finding, and ultimately innovation. As the need for innovation intensifies, there is an opportunity to leverage curiosity as a competitive advantage.That means creating a culture for curiosity to thrive within organisations now, as well as in the future.
Evette Cordy is an innovation specialist and author of Cultivating Curiosity: How to Unearth Your Most Valuable Problem to Inspire Growth. She is a highly regarded workshop leader and an expert in working with business leaders, stakeholders and customers to solve business problems.
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