It is a trait each child exhibits which is why it is often referred to as childlike. It’s the trait most responsible for the success of stalwarts such as Michael Dell and Steve Jobs to Walt Disney and Albert Einstein. There’s no b-school programme around it, yet most in the c-suite swear by it. Curiosity. Something in my view which needs to be displayed a lot more everywhere from cubicles to conference rooms to the Board room.
Netflix, the giant of the internet and a company I personally admire deeply has Curiosity listed as one of its core values describing it as the ability to learn rapidly and understand actively the business model, the market, and the stakeholders. The under 25-year-old US based company founded in 1997, and which has become a global household name started as a DVD rental using believe it or not ‘snail mail’ to reach customers. Ten years down the road Netflix went through a radical transformation, offering customers its first streaming product. The rest as they say is history for what now is a TV and movie studio! Just to throw in a little trivia – the company was founded as Kibble but the founders changed the name to Netflix in 1998 because they were curious about what the future would hold and the role of the internet in service, selection and movie delivery.
Their story resonates with Steve Jobs’ philosophy of skating to where the puck will be, not where it is. It is a philosophy I have followed at Gandhar. Because of our keen eye on where our market was headed, we have expanded from a single product industrial oils company to a company with an expanded suite of automotive oils and petroleum products. Today, we have developed depth in each of our categories, and our products have a much broader relevance with multiple uses and formulations. Staying curious helped us identify gaps in the markets and using them as leverage we entered with high quality, customised products that then allowed us to dominate the space.
Staying curious means the following to me.
- Forever questioning:
In the corporate set-up particularly, we want to always share our knowledge first before seeking to observe, understand, listen and question. The management philosophy used at Toyota automobile plants postulates that the root causes of a given situation can be uncovered simply by asking “why?” enough times — exactly as young children do. This makes you think more deeply about the choices you make, and helps reverse-trace the root causes of a given situation.
Ask others their opinions, perspectives, and their approaches to certain things. Everyone does things a bit differently, and there are potential new answers and solutions to problems hidden in other people’s thinking.
- Forever learning
It means applying a beginner’s mind and being open to new ways of doing things. It can start with enrolling in an online course in an area we have always been interested in but have not yet engaged. There are a plethora of platforms available to choose from to learn about any subject under the sun. It is an ongoing journey at any age, and something we should embrace unabashedly.
- Forever creating something new
We can — and should — be inspired by how children build and take apart, to then build again. Take a different route to work, read a book in a genre you usually avoid, trying to cook a different cuisine. Each of these activities opens your mind to new ways of doing things.
- Forever challenging the status quo
Here too children are our teachers. They are apt at turning assumptions inside out and thereby redefining possibilities. While this tends to cause some disruptions there are enormous benefits too triggered by this action.
Letting go of predictability and embracing adversity is something we at Gandhar learnt during the pandemic. Our liquid paraffin production lines which typically cater to the cosmetics and pharmaceutical sectors gave us an occasion to serve a distinct need we hadn’t done before within the pharma industry, which also allowed us to serve the nation through this crippling crisis. It also gave us a chance to energise our production at a time when business was erratic. We quickly revamped our production to cater to the stringent and urgent need for liquid paraffin that is used in the production of the Hydroxychloroquine drug being prescribed in the treatment against coronavirus.
- Forever moving ahead
Children swiftly move past and beyond failure, without wasting time and energy on self-criticism. Entrepreneurs must draw inspiration from this. Success comes at the end of many experiences of failures. Our job is to not give up but to build greater resilience along the way.
This is what being curious means to me. Would love to hear what it means to you.