Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the FutureLearn's online course, Innovative Leadership: Developing Curiosity. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds So this is important, because communication is one of the most often cited reasons for a problem at work. When people can’t communicate well, there are disagreements, misunderstandings, conflict, a host of things that go along with this that leads to problems with productivity. If you’re arguing with your co-worker and take the time you’re wasting, take the time he or she is wasting, and add in the time your boss and HR and everybody else is wasting, that’s a lot of money down the drain. So you might say that asking questions can help. And you’d be right. But it’s not just asking questions. It’s also about listening to the answers. Sometimes we think we know answers, but we didn’t even ask the question.

Skip to 0 minutes and 52 seconds And the ability to truly listen well is a huge problem in the workplace. And we even teach this out of people at times. And I’ve had this happen with me. I’m guilty. Let me explain. When I was a pharmaceutical representative, I went through intensive training. And this picture is my idea of what a doctor looked like in my mind. I went through years of onboarding training. And it felt like that. They drilled into my head that I had to do sales presentations to these doctors who were going to be cranky. And they called them details instead of sales presentations. And we were supposed to tell him or her about three products.

Skip to 1 minute and 26 seconds And we were told this is going to be almost impossible to do, because they’re so unbelievably busy. And we knew we might not get time for anything other than one product. And having heard this over and over in my head, how challenging it was, it put me on edge. So I can remember one of my first times calling on a doctor by myself. I sat in a waiting room what felt like forever and finally was able to get back to his office. I remember getting through all three products. I was so proud of myself.

Skip to 1 minute and 54 seconds I walked out of that office headed to my car to get some samples, patting myself on the back the whole way, thinking how triumphant I was. And I got in the elevator. And just as the door was about to close, a guy got on the elevator with me. And because I’m a green extrovert like we just talked about, I can’t go two floors without talking. So I looked at him and I said, so do you work in the building? And he looked at me with a horrified look and he said, you just detailed me. So this was that same doctor I had just given this free product sales presentation to. I was mortified.

Skip to 2 minutes and 26 seconds What I thought was really a great sales communication was horrible, because I just told him about my products. It wasn’t good at all. I was just speaking at him. I didn’t ask him any questions. I didn’t involve his input. I didn’t find out his pain points. You name it, I did it wrong. And what I thought was the best thing turned out to be one of the worst things I could have done. And it taught me the value of asking questions and listening to answers. And I often wonder how long it would have taken me to realise that if this guy had not gotten in the elevator, I would’ve thought that was great.

Skip to 2 minutes and 56 seconds Who’s not getting on the elevator with you? Think about it. And this all ties into engagement, because engagement is a huge issue for organisations right now. Developing engagement is not just about being more profitable, even though we know engaged teams show 21% greater profitability. We know employees who feel their voice is heard feel more empowered and are more likely to recommend their workplace as someplace they want to work. But we hear so much about it because it’s costing companies so much money. I mean, we’ve all seen the Gallup numbers– $500 billion a year. And it’s important to see what others have done to improve engagement. Again, we can gain a lot of ground by being curious and asking questions.

Skip to 3 minutes and 38 seconds And that’s what Disney did. Consider how Disney overcame their problem with low engagement. In their laundry division– not everything you see at Disneyland is glamorous. There is a laundry division. And just ask the people who work there. Cleaning linens and ironing is not as glamorous as it sounds. And they found they were losing a lot of people. In fact, the turnover was so high that they decided to send out a questionnaire to determine what kinds of things could they do to improve their job for their workers. And they really expected to receive comments that were way above and beyond anything they had a desire to accommodate.

Skip to 4 minutes and 9 seconds But in fact, they really learned some small things that were very easy to fix. They simply asked them, what can we do to make your job better? And they received really practical answers like, put an air vent over my workspace. Or make my folding table adjustable to my height for my back. And they thought, yeah, we can do that. So they did. And it dramatically improved engagement and turnover. So just asking a simple question, opening up a very important dialogue– that led to effective solutions. And we need solutions, because we know organisations need to be innovative. And they’re striving to be innovative. But we know half of the jobs that existed today won’t exist in 20 years.

Skip to 4 minutes and 47 seconds And we know the majority of Fortune 500 firms that existed in 1995 are just gone. And we don’t want to be the obsolete company that overlooked opportunities that were right under our nose. So consider some organisations that clung to the tried and true status quo way of things. In the 1980s, Kodak dominated the photography market. I couldn’t walk into a store without being hit over the head with film. As the age of technology emerged, the company owned the patents to an obscure phenomenon called digital photography. The leaders feared that if they productized and sold the new technology that it would decline their film sales. They didn’t want to cannibalise it.

Skip to 5 minutes and 27 seconds So using the classic decision-making process, they decided to forgo the new technology to protect their dominance in the film-based photography business. Of course, this led to digital photography that took over the industry. And if the company had focused more on digitization, chances are they’d be thriving today. But they failed, because they held on to status quo thinking. They stood up and sat down when the bell rang. In 2000, an obscure video company called Netflix pitched an offer to Blockbuster. The most dominant player in the video rental market was Blockbuster. And to become a partner for online rentals would have been a big deal.

Skip to 6 minutes and 3 seconds But after analysing the offer using their standard model, Blockbuster’s leaders concluded there was little or no market for online video rentals. They passed on the offer. What happened? Well, Blockbuster went out of business. And in 2018, Netflix has $7.6 billion in revenue. Again, status quo thinking killed them. If we want to truly buy into being innovative, we must open ourselves up to new ideas. And that happens through exploration. Innovation usually comes from ideas from people in the field, on the ground, behind the scenes, from those pulling the strings. But we need to put them in a position to give them permission and encourage them to explore ideas, test new directions, and imagine the future.

Skip to 6 minutes and 48 seconds As artificial intelligence and technology threaten existing jobs, talent needs to be brought along as well to help the company evolve and drive that change. With the advent of new technology, we will have a lot of people who are going to need to move into new areas of employment. But where do we put them? Where will they fit? Wouldn’t it be great to put them somewhere where they actually felt more engaged? Wouldn’t it be great if we could find out what they’re really best at doing by asking them questions and allowing them to pursue areas of interest? Sometimes we’ve got to look in a different area. And this slide is kind of interesting.

Skip to 7 minutes and 21 seconds You might wonder what a hospital and a race car have in common. Leadership and management need to be curious to ask questions to develop curiosity and creativity. And that could lead to finding solutions from kind of unexpected places. England’s Great Ormond Street Hospital treats heart patients. And they were experiencing a great number of casualties when transferring patients from the OR to recovery. One of the physicians was watching a Formula One race car event one night and particularly impressed by how quickly and efficiently the pit crews would service everything in seven seconds, mistake free. And he thought, well, how can this Formula One race car team do this, and we can’t even do that?

Skip to 8 minutes and 0 seconds So he thought, well, let me invite them back to see what we’re doing and make observations based on our procedures. So they offered a three-step procedure. And once it was implemented, they reduced the hospital’s errors by more than 50%. They were able to think in a unique outside-the-box way that helped them thrive in today’s environment.

Communication and conflict

In the video, we learn that companies lose hundreds of billions a year on lost productivity due to communication and engagement issues.

We learn that curiosity is the spark to allowing us to explore different areas that might interest us.

If we are allowed to ask questions and explore different job opportunities, how might that improve our engagement at work?

Share your comments below with your fellow learners!

Curiosity is part of our DNA. In the next step we will be looking at our instincts when it comes to curiosity’s role in survival.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Innovative Leadership: Developing Curiosity

FutureLearn