How to create a curious enterprise

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The QUT Business School and MIT Sloan School of Management recently hosted the second part of our global webinar series, The Future Enterprise.

Our global experts, Professor Steven D. Eppinger from MIT Sloan and Professor Marek Kowalkiewicz from QUT, shared insights into The Curious Enterprise.

Here are their five ways you can build curiosity in your organisation.

1: A little bit of process goes a long way

Steven D. Eppinger started the webinar by posing the question, “Can agile project management be applied to innovative design thinking methods?”

He explored how even though agile processes are highly prescriptive, they can facilitate an innovation process such as design thinking.

“If we’re curious to learn and discover, maybe we can learn and discover delivery of value through agile methods,” Professor Eppinger shared. “Process can make you better in innovation, you’ve just got to get comfortable overlaying a little structure over your creative activities.”

He recently worked with a business to implement agile processes in a part-time sprint of 1 sprint per month for 1-week at a time. The timeboxed sprints were:

  • Sprint 1: the team decided their concept for a new snackfood.
  • Sprint 2: they tested basic recipes.
  • Sprint 3: time to refine the flavours and other aspects of the product like packaging.
  • Sprint 4: pilot production line and adjustments to the recipe and process.
  • Sprint 5: prepare for market launch.

Each 5-day sprint followed a similar schedule, where they would plan at the start of the week, create something in the middle and gained feedback towards the end.

Following this process allowed the team to work effectively and efficiently to achieve a successful outcome at the end of their sprint.

2: Ongoing reflection

Eppinger mentioned that agile processes can apply creativity to achieve innovation, especially since the process is based on feedback.

Product and process feedback relies on customers and internal managers reviewing a product and providing immediate feedback. Closing the loop at the end of every sprint allows the team crucial reflection time to improve their processes for the next sprint.

The most crucial part of this ongoing reflection? Team members are accountable for implementing this valuable feedback.

3: Embrace aimless exploration

Professor Marek Kowalkiewicz believes curiosity in business is important.

“The aimless exploration in business isn’t pointless,” he shared. “When you explore you get to learn, to build up your knowledge.

“In business it means you get to understand things that are not crucial at the moment, but may be very important later. The more knowledge you have, the better you may be positioned in the future.”

Professor Kowalkiewicz outlined two common types of curiosity:

  • Design curiosity: people who use design curiosity thrive in experiences and feelings, looking for a problem in a situation.
  • Analytical curiosity: analytical explorers thrive on hypotheses and testing solutions. Often, they know what the problem is and are trying to find a solution.

He also introduced a new type: generative curiosity. This is unencumbered curiosity where random exploration can reach positive business outcomes. By being curious and not fearing failure, businesses can explore and succeed in new realms.

4: Curiosity is an attitude

Our experts discussed how leaders should embrace asking ‘why’ more often and trying, testing and failing at certain projects.

When you’re genuinely curious you are truly listening and understanding different perspectives; listening to learn naturally moves to curiosity and exploring new ways of business.

If you’re not comfortable asking ‘why’ constantly, there are other ways we can ask the right questions. For example, “what are the 10 different ways we can do this?”

This will allow your organisation or team to flex their curiosity.

5: Move from knowing to asking

Moving towards embracing curiosity relies on new perspectives. Start by increasing diversity in a project or on a team. Bringing people from different backgrounds and experiences together will empower curiosity.

You should also focus on creating a culture where everyone is collaborating regularly. By developing a common vocabulary around curiosity, you move these conversations into day-to-day work; translating to more natural exploration within your team.

The topic of the first webinar was The Ambitious Enterprise. Experts James C. Rhee from MIT Sloan and Professor Michael Rosemann from QUT reframed the definition of ambition, and outlined a new mindset and strategies required for leaders to achieve enterprise goals. Read more here.

Ready for more expert insight? Join us for the 2022 Future Enterprise Webinar Series. FIND OUT MORE.

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