Harnessing the power of curiosity

question mark

When hiring an analyst, how important is “curiosity”?

Is it even on your list of desirable attributes?

If not, ADD IT!

Quid Pro Quo

A few weeks back I wrote about Peter Kellogg’s program at Merck. Peter equips everyone across the organization in basic financial literacy (see Lost In Translation). His goal is to improve collaboration between his finance folks and the rest of the business.

The reverse is also true: finance folks need to be equally familiar with the other disciplines in their organization (operations, marketing, etc.). Yes, we want to be understood, but we also need to take the initiative to understand others. But Finance’s record on this dimension is mediocre at best. EPM Channel’s 360° Feedback research identified “a lack of business understanding” as a key barrier to providing effective decision support.

Some suggest training programs but in my mind a formal training program should be wholly unnecessary – daily business is your classroom. An analyst not itching to thoroughly understand the business they are supporting is the wrong person for the job.

Efforts to provide training or push them out to work more closely with operations, marketing or other departments will be met with at best reluctant obedience and at worst resistance.

Getting The Right People On The Bus

The solution? Build a team with a natural, insatiable curiosity. Sixteen hundred years ago, Saint Augustine observed:

“Free curiosity has greater power to stimulate learning than rigorous coercion.”

Whether you already have insanely curious analysts, or once you have them on board, set the stage to harness that power of  curiosity:

  • Announce expectations. Let folks know you value those who learn the dynamics of your business beyond the traditional finance perspective.
  • Allow time for exploration. Be patient with analysts who linger with cross-functional team members and other departments if they are learning what makes those roles challenging and fulfilling.
  • Reward learning. Put it into their performance reviews and recognize those who are following their curiosity (even though they will think it’s ridiculous to be rewarded for doing what they wanted to do anyway).

Riding the wave of curiosity, you will quickly enjoy not only the benefits of more insightful decision support, but also stronger relationships driving more effective decision support.

What’s been your experience?  If you have a team of insatiably curious analysts, let me know how you developed that culture.

© Dave Wittenberg