Get Reworked Podcast: Why Curiosity Is the Key to Business Transformation
Visionary strategy, talented people, management excellence, relentless execution, innovative products and services. They're all hallmarks of a successful business. But ... curiosity?
In this episode of Get Reworked, Simon Brown, chief learning officer at Novartis, and Garrick Jones of The Ludic Group make the case for curiosity as the competitive edge companies need today, based on their business bestseller "The Curious Advantage." It lies at the heart of the essential skills needed to navigate an uncertain and constantly shifting future, they argue. How you manage your people is how you'll unlock its value.
"A big part is actually managers, leaders within an organization creating that culture where people can learn, can experiment, can try things, can question, can challenge," Simon said.
Highlights of the conversation include:
- Why curiosity is the greatest driver of value in the digital age.
- The 7 C's of curiosity and how to develop them.
- The need for experimentation and multiple channels for thinking.
- How leaders can make asking questions a central part of business culture.
Plus, co-hosts Siobhan Fagan and Mike Prokopeak talk through what they're curious about these days and why this conversation has left them hankering for a Big Mac. Listen in for more.
Have a suggestion, comment or topic for a future episode? Drop us a line at [email protected].
- Book: "The Curious Advantage"
- Podcast: "The Curious Advantage"
- Simon Brown on LinkedIn
- Garrick Jones on LinkedIn
Note: This transcript has been edited for space and clarity.
Mike Prokopeak: Hello and welcome to Get Reworked, your guide to the revolution of work. My name is Mike Prokopeak and I'm editor in chief at Reworked.co.
Siobhan Fagan: And I'm Siobhan Fagan, managing editor for Reworked. At Reworked.co, we're dedicated to covering the people, the culture, the technology and the infrastructure that makes up our quickly evolving workplaces.
Mike: Get Reworked is our podcast, brought to you by Simpler Media Group, where you'll hear from industry pioneers leading the way into the future of work, reshaping not just how we work, but also why. We're excited to bring you conversations about best practices, workplace trends and key technologies that support the modern distributed workforce.
Siobhan: Hello, Mike.
Mike: Alright. I'm curious. What are you curious about lately.
Siobhan: I have been reading books about economics, which is really not the norm for me, Mike.
Mike: What drew you in?
Siobhan: I actually was led to two different books through two different podcasts. So I recently read a book about John Maynard Keynes because the author Zachary Carter was on a Chris Hayes podcast. How's that for a serendipitous route? How about you, Mike, what have you been reading up on or listening to or curious about?
Mike: So my son has gotten into Khan Academy. He basically sits on the computer, and we'll look at Khan Academy classes. And lately, he's really interested in Greek and Persian history. I don't know why but he was asking me these questions, and I had this font of information somewhere in the back of my head that just sort of started to pop out. I don't know where it came from. But I got sort of curious, like, where did I learn all this stuff? I guess all that schooling paid off at some point.
Siobhan: Did you figure it out, what the source was?
Mike: I think I read recently Herodotus, who is kind of like the first historian. He's sort of the primary source for Greek history. And I think that's where it came from. But probably it's all cultural, that's my guess.
Siobhan: I should have just said, I've been interested in reading about M&Ms or something like that so we could have a nicer contrast between the two of us.
Mike: We're definitely nerding it out for the beginning of this podcast, that's for sure.
I asked you the question because we're going be talking about curiosity today with our guests and curiosity's role or the advantage that it brings to organizations as they're operating in the digital era. Our first guest, his name is Simon Brown. He is the chief learning officer at Novartis and is one of the authors of the book, The Curious Advantage. Simon is somebody I've known for a number of years going back to his work at Lloyds Banking Group, and is now working at Novartis. He's the head of learning there. He's going to be joining us from Switzerland where he'll be talking to us a little bit about curiosity.
And we're also going to be joined by his co-author on the book, Garrick Jones. Garrick is an entrepreneur, academic and musician based in London. He is the co-founder and partner of the Ludic Group, a consultancy that is focused on transforming the way people live, work and learn. He also does some teaching at London School of Economics and Political Science, and is just an all-around Renaissance individual in business, music and art, and I'm looking forward to hearing from him. How about you, Siobhan?
Siobhan: I am ready.
Mike: Alright, let's Get Reworked.
Welcome to the podcast, Simon and Garrick.
Simon Brown: Glad to be here. Thanks Mike.
Garrick Jones: Hi.
Mike: I know that this is probably something that every podcast host or journalist who interviews you about your book does to you. It's an unfair question, because you probably spent a year-plus writing an entire book about a subject, but I'm curious given that our subject is curiosity, and the title of your book is The Curious Advantage, I'm curious if you can help us identify and describe what is the curious advantage and talk through the 7C's that you identify in your book in less than seven minutes. So Simon, here you go, you're on the clock. What's the curious advantage?
Simon: We believe that curiosity is the greatest driver of value in the digital age. Why do we say that? If we look around us, and this has been particularly evident over the last year, things are very ambiguous, things are accelerating, there's a huge amount of change going on. And that's incredibly hard for all of us to navigate, the world is incredibly complex and it's only going to get more and more complex as things go on. The pandemic has made this even more acute, as a couple of years ago that Justin Trudeau talked about how the pace of change is now has never been this fast, but it will never be this slow again. So he recognizes the world is getting faster. And to try and understand what's going on Astro Teller of Google X talks about the rate of change for technology, and we sort of see a sort of exponential curve of technology.
And then if we look at the pace of change of us as humans, we're struggling to keep up. We can't adapt to the same pace that technology is accelerating. Fortunately, he does offer a solution which is around learning faster, and we believe curiosity actually helps us to learn faster and it helps us to navigate through that ambiguity.
We look at some of the data that backs this up, and we talk about this in the book, around the skills that we all rely on every day. In the book, we talk about 19% of those skills will be irrelevant in the next three years, which is quite scary. Actually, we just got some updated data that actually indicates it's even increased now to 26% of the skills that we have will be irrelevant in three years time. And at the same time, there are new skills coming, and nearly half of us, 46%, have actually learned a new-to-world skill in the last three years. And therefore, how do we cope with new skills coming, the skills that we have going, the ambiguity and the acceleration that's there? We feel that the curiosity is the answer to that.
And through all of our research, we actually came up with a model for how we can be more curious and identified many of the benefits that curiosity actually provides as well. And while curiosity logically we sort of think about as being maybe the motivation behind learning. There's actually a lot of benefit that curiosity brings for us as individuals, but also for organizations.
So there's research from the University of California that shows how curiosity actually helps us to learn better. If you apply curiosity when you're learning it creates stronger memories and stronger recall. Also, curiosity helps us to make better decision-making. So there's research by Francesca Gino in the Harvard Business Review that identified how it reduces decision-making errors, and actually helps us make better decisions. It helps us to reduce conflict because we appreciate different opinions within the team. We're curious to understand why someone would hold a different viewpoint to ourselves. It also helps us to communicate better, we're more curious to listen, and it enhances our listening skills. And Spencer Harrison from INSEAD also identified how it actually drives greater innovation, that we're being more creative with testing things out. So that benefits our companies and benefits for individuals.
Mike: Yeah, I was just gonna say I want to get into the business context that you're starting to talk about here pretty in depth, but there is kind of a big question I have, and Garrick I'd like to maybe bring you into this conversation here to address this one, which is, I think we tend to think of curiosity as a natural state that people have. That some people are more curious than others. Is curiosity something that can be learned? Is it a learnable thing? Simon started to talk about the business implications of why this is important. So can we learn to be more curious? Is it learnable?
Garrick: We think, of course, we think curiosity can be learned. We think it is innate, of course, you just think about kids and babies and how we are hardwired to be curious and hardwired to explore our world and our context because we need to understand that world and we need to process it. We also need to know what's safe, and where the risks are. Our definition of curiosity is really about, we believe, curiosity is having an attitude of wonder, with a spirit of exploration. And there's that idea of not only thinking, Well, what is this? And what could that be? And how might it and what if, but also the courage to go and actually give it a go. And Simon talked about successful curiosity, we think you can be curious but you can also learn to hone that as a skill and hone that to be successfully curious.
And the reason why we think that curiosity is the greatest driver of value in the digital age is by being successfully curious within organizations, if you think from the individual level to the organizational level, there are lots of things that we can talk about that have an impact on how organizations can survive and thrive in the digital world because they are full of people who are curious and bringing information into the system.
Siobhan: At this point, I'd want to know a little bit more about that. I mean, how specifically does having a curious workforce benefit a business? And Simon, I want to bring you back into this. Are there definite areas where you can point to cause and effect here?
Simon: If we look at the world today and that complexity that's there, there is no easy clear right answer in so many situations today. And the old model that many businesses are run on, if the leader knows best and the leader will be able to provide the answers and everyone else needs to do what the leader directs, just doesn't work in the ambiguity that is there now. That actually we're facing such complexity in the world that we need to be experimenting, we need to be testing things out, we need to be curious as to different potential outcomes. And we need to create that environment and have a culture of curiosity within our teams so that we can actually have diverse teams with psychological safety that can speak up, can be curious about different ideas, can surface their thoughts and challenges, and then test out those ideas, put them into practice, experiment, learn from that experimentation, be comfortable with what doesn't work. And all of that is driven through that curiosity.
And so organizations that are more curious are able to then deal with that ambiguity greater. And we recently spoke with Spencer Harrison, who is a INSEAD professor, who did analysis of 500 CEOs and their curiosity and that of their top teams and found that the level of curiosity correlated with the long term strategic success of those organizations. The more curious they were, the more successful they were over the long-term because that curiosity is driving people to test out different assumptions, to question things and to seek new ways.
Garrick: And just to build on what Simon's saying. There's the idea of organizations as complex adaptive systems, which are evolving continuously. And one of the people we work with on our research, Chris Meyer, the futurist, talks about the evolution of companies little bit from the Big Bang to the Big Mac. He talks about how if you've got ants sending out lots of different streams of ants and pheromones to find food, and they have a major source of food, but at the same time, they're also sending out other scouts to find other sources of food so that if something happens to the primary source of food, they quickly are able to redirect all the worker ants and make sure that they're all fed.
And the need for scenarios and other things in place is one of the things that the curious organization has in place, the ability to constantly not only be sensing alternatives and looking at the future, but also to be able to shift and pivot there as quickly as possible because they're testing and playing and have the seeds, if you like, of the future, the small ideas that can already thrive. They're already in place, the small seeds of where you're going. And so the idea is in a curious organization, not only are individuals curious, but there are things going on constantly that allow you to pivot and test the future and understand where you might go. Of course, we've seen this in lockdown, those organizations that had already started digital working, and some of them were further down the line than others. Those that were more flexible were able to pivot quickly. Some organizations have a lot more trouble doing it because it wasn't in their ethos or culture.
And it's those ideas of the curious organization being able to sense the future, but also having some of the future present within the system that allows successful evolution over time.
Siobhan: So I want to follow up here because you say that some organizations don't necessarily have curiosity in their ethos or in their culture at this point. And I was thinking about how curiosity can be expressed, and a lot of times it comes out in the form of specifically asking questions, which isn't something that's necessarily encouraged in business settings. So what can businesses do to make curiosity part of the business culture? What needs to change here?
Simon: Many things and fortunately I work within an organization, Novartis, that has curiosity as a key part of our culture. Our culture is inspired, curious and unbossed. But we've been building that culture of curiosity over several years from encouraging people to spend time being curious and to to learn and to be better at learning new skills and experimenting. So we have an aspiration that people spend 100 hours a year on learning and being curious.
There's elements around creating the safety for people to ask questions, and to test things out and to experiment and to fail. So to build that within the organization but also within our leaders in particular to be creating that safety within the teams that they lead so that people can feel safe to question and to celebrate that curiosity through role modeling, etc., as well.
And we look at the research and we find that the role of the leader is critical in creating that curiosity culture. We look at within Novartis at the data that we have, then, if a team considers the leader favorable vs. unfavorable, there's an 18-point difference in the engagement of the team but there's a 22-point difference in the curiosity in the team. So the difference between the team finding that leader favorable and unfavorable, it has the greatest impact on the team's curiosity. And that's logical because I wouldn't ask questions. I wouldn't try things that might not work if it's not a safe culture created by that leader. So a big part is actually managers, leaders within an organization creating that culture where people can learn, can experiment, can try things, can question, can challenge. All of that allows people to then be curious.
Mike: I've got a question. A number of things that you've mentioned have to do with relationships. You mentioned psychological safety. And you know, the leader kind of creating and leading this space where curiosity is encouraged, asking questions, trying out new approaches is encouraged. Let's assume that the future of business here is some sort of hybrid working reality where we may have some people who are in office, we may have some people who are working in a distributed fashion, and maybe it's a mix and match. Every week, it looks a little bit different. How do you build those sort of relationships that encourage curiosity when we're working in this increasingly distributed fashion? Garrick? Can you tackle that one?
Garrick: It's a great question. I mean, you talked about relationships. And we think relationships are the heart of the curious organization. Simon alluded to earlier, the idea that the big shift that's happened in organizations. That big shift from the pyramid and top down management which has been in place probably since Alexander the Great conquered the Persians and ran Persia militarily, and it's been part of management dynamics ever since. Now, the huge shift that's taking place is, instead of top-down chains of command, you've got everybody connected to each other in a cloud of relationships. And you've got multiple back channels of communication swarming around individuals. And no matter where you are in the organization, the lowliest individual, if you like, there's access to potentially as the same information as somebody who's in a more senior position. And those channels may not be formal, there's loads of informal communications. So relationships are the key to enabling things to happen.
How do you influence this amorphous cloud and curiosity? By being a curious leader is one of the skills we go into, kind of the details of some of those skills that came out of our research. But clearly, by asking curious questions, assuming that you need to nudge and lead by example, and have a shadow influence within this cloud of people that you're leading, and to question is the answer. It's the final statement in our book.
And we came to that after long, hard thinking. To understand that as a leader, no longer are you expected to have the answer. I teach at the London School of Economics, as well. I know now my teaching has completely changed as well as my management style in the business that I run because everybody, all the students have access to way more information than I could possibly have at the front of the room because they will have their laptops there.
So we've had to change our teaching habits and make things much more participatory. Ask people to work together, explore things and show and tell. It's completely changed the learning dynamic. Same is true in organizations. By asking people curious questions, assuming that everybody has got to a position through their own research or understanding or from their context, and being a leader who in a Socratic way, I would say, leads through guidance and through questions, you can then come to an understanding of the context that people bring to the conversation, and you can guide a group of people that way.
So it is a fundamental shift. We don't have a technical or even associated technical approach to management anymore. It can't be that because the organization is not a machine. It is a living, amorphous, ever-changing group of individuals in relationship.
Mike: I still struggle to figure out how we do that when we're distributed. Because I can see you know, when you're in a classroom and engaging in Socratic dialogue with someone, we've been doing that for a couple millennia, at least, but in the digital world, do you have ideas or tips for leaders, and maybe it's still developing, but that we're starting to see successes in this regard?
Garrick: There are two things that I would say, then Simon, please jump in. The key thing about digital work and leading digitally, we think we have the 7C's, we'll be sailing the 7C's of curiosity, which are kind of broad clumps of data which we've clustered together.
And two of those 7C's are criticality and construction. And the idea of criticality is the idea of, we all need to be aware of our unconscious bias. We need to be aware of all the biases, we refer to the 182 that have been defined in the American Psychological Association, that we bring to a situation and teaching people to be aware of their biases so that they can stand back and challenge the things they're facing digitally without seeing other people is key. Understanding what your own bias might be so that you don't head down a pathway that simply reinforces the things that give you pleasure or reinforces things or takes you away from things that make you feel uncomfortable. Being aware of that, and it's something that has to be taught.
The other one is construction. And the key to construction for us is pretty much show and tell. If you've got a group of people working digitally, the best way to allow them to coalesce around a project and to do something is to give it a go. It's one of the reasons we talk about design thinking, the idea of prototyping iterating, and building bad versions of things to test in the real world. Nothing achieves greater clarity by people who are distributed all over the place, than asking them to make something together and then show it online somehow.
Mike: Perfect. I want to jump ahead a little bit and talk about learning. We have the chief learning officer of a major company here so we'd be remiss in not talking about the connection between curiosity and learning. And Garrick, I know that is close to your heart as well. And you argue that curiosity is a power skill that fuels learning but it's not really taught explicitly. You mentioned working at London School of Economics. Garrick, why is it not being taught? And perhaps what can we do about that?
Garrick: I think it's not taught because people take it for granted. Think we're all curious. And also, people think that curiosity is just about having that attitude of wonder and not necessarily understanding that real curiosity, and if you look at the language, I mean, I'm a language guy, and if you look at the roots of the word, to be curious, whether it's French or Greek or so on, it's all about exploring the world and exploring things or being a busybody. One of the words in Greek is about the gadfly that irritates the cow in the field, that constantly keeps the cow moving. And there's that sense of irritation which is what curiosity is all about.
Why isn't taught as a skill? Who knows? You know, we've had rote learning. And many of the learning systems certainly in Europe have been based on creating a system of learning that supports Victorian ideas of industrialization. You know, rote learning and being in classrooms and all the rest of it. We know, that's rapidly going out, thank goodness.
The new idea about learning whether it's for young people, or whether it's for people in work or lifelong learning, is putting the individual at the center of the learning and allowing them to explore the things that are truly interesting to them. And one of the ways that works out in organizations, and Simon can talk more about this is, understanding that what really works is if you create a curriculum, not even a curriculum, you create the opportunity for people to learn whatever they like, even if it's technical learning that is specifically available and related to the work and the job they have to do. Yes, but also, it might be the other things. It might be a pottery class. It might be a guitar class. It might be a language. The things around the outside that make us more complete human beings and allow us to connect to others, all of those learning things if they're available within the context have an impact on the quality of learning that goes on and have an impact on the quality of the outcome for the entire organization. What do you think, Simon?
Simon: Absolutely. When we interviewed Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan on our Curious Advantage podcast, and he talked about the value of breadth, and he just read, I think David Epstein's book Range, that talks about sort of the value of having that general view across things and how, if you're curious about things outside of your discipline, that actually many of his insights had come from something completely unconnected to work. But he was then able to make the linkage back into the day job and actually draw insight from these unconnected subjects.
And so within Novartis, we were encouraging associates to be curious, to invest 5% of their time or 100 hours a year on being curious and learning. And to do that, we've tried to provide fantastic opportunities for people to learn through multiple different routes, so providing access to world-leading catalogs of learning, through providing access to internal webinars with experts from across the business sharing their views, and trying to foster that culture around curiosity and the ability for people to spend that time learning, whether it's directly linked to their performance on their role, or whether it's something they're just curious about in another area.
Siobhan: So Simon in those cases, where people are being encouraged to take classes of their own choosing. So often in business where we're working in fairly narrow fields, people are encouraged to be specialists. So how do you encourage people to take these classes outside of their given area? Or do you find that's not a problem, and i'd love your response to that Simon, and Garrick, if you have anything to add there, please jump in.
Simon: So it makes sure things so we can recommend programs for individual roles across the company. So that happens if I'm a sales person, I get things related to being a salesperson. But then we also make the entire catalogs of our learning available to people so that they can take advantage of anything in there. An example of that is we use the Coursera catalog, and I think we have the widest breadth of usage across that catalog of any organization. So people are exploring topics of their own choosing within there and gaining that breadth as well.
So the way we do is yes, we have targeted learning and recommendations based on people's roles and what people similar to you are doing. But then having that open access to all of the learning resources as well. We then have leader playlists or influencer playlists around particular topics that may be of interest, whether that's diversity and inclusion, whether that's data science, where people have curated learning, podcasts, articles, etc., around those topics. And again, those are publicized and available for everyone to be able to take advantage of.
So there's different needs, I guess. There's targeted learning where I need particular skills or knowledge in order to better performing my job. But there's also things I'll be curious about and that will broaden my knowledge, and that may also be valuable as well for us as a company.
Garrick: It's one of the areas where digital has really made this huge difference. If you think of the individual surrounded by an ecosystem that enables learning, we did some really nice conversations with Gordon Fuller at IBM, who's the head of learning there, and the ecosystem that they're creating around their associates is astonishing, and how they measuring and creating specifically an ecosystem that fosters curiosity.
And the thing about it is, learning has come out of the classroom. No longer are you in a situation, you're taken through a learning journey, or you're taken through a process. But the state of the art learning allows you to draw down the learning you require from a huge menu and wide variety of sources, and also keeps track of your learning as you go through it so you can build up your own index of things that you've done, and they build up against your own levels of certification, whether it's a guitar course or whether it's an MBA.
But then you've also got your podcasts and your articles and the other channels which learning has been delivered. And then finally, of course, the communities of interest. I mean, the idea of having a group of people who share your interests or share your ways of doing things, or at work, all of that is made so much easier by the digital realm. And it's coming, if you talk about digital natives of the next generation, it's way more the way that things are done by the next generation than it is perhaps by my generation. I had to learn how to do it. But I'm listening to podcasts in the car, and I'm figuring it out, you know, but it's really being surrounded by opportunities to learn.
Mike: This raises the question, I think, of a fundamental tension in business. Which is the focus on efficiency, but yet, there's also this need for innovation. And those two can work together, but innovation doesn't necessarily follow a timeframe, a schedule. It's not, you know, 10 a.m, it's time for innovation. So how do you make time, Simon, you mentioned sort of taking 5% of time to pursue outside interests, but how do you maintain a focus on efficiency and getting to what you need to have from people, what they need to learn skills-based because you needed specifically for this job, but also being able to kind of code switch back into that, okay, this is my, I don't want to call it free time, because it's not really free time, but it's this is my learning time. This is sort of from a chance for me to step back a little bit. How do you find the balance between those in an organization?
Simon: And that's always always going to be a tough one where you've got those two tensions. But I sort of come back a bit to some of the data I cited earlier around over a quarter of the skills that we have today being irrelevant in three years time, nearly half of people having learned a new-to-world skill in the last three years.
So as an organization, do we want to have people with the latest skills that can remain competitive? Or are we okay with the thought that actually we've got a whole organization of people that may be relying on skills that are three years old when the competition has actually been building these latest skills. They have new technologies therefore available to them, new approaches, how can you keep up? So that would be the argument that I would play in that case. How as an organization can you not afford to have the latest skills, the latest approaches the latest knowledge? And what value will having that give you vs. not having that and a relatively small amount of time spent building those new skills should then become an easier justification.
When we made the case in 2019 for going big on learning within Novartis, it was basically on two reasons. One was to attract and retain the best talent, and the other was to build the skills to deliver upon the business strategy. So recognition that in order to execute the strategy that we had, we needed skills and those skills weren't necessarily easy to come by, data and digital etc., and therefore we needed to get good at learning in order to be able to build those skills. And the speed that things are going it's just gonna become more and more acute. If you want to remain competitive as an organization, you need to have the latest skills, latest approaches, the latest use of tools, and that means investing in the learning and the skills of your people.
Garrick: So it's not only about future proofing the organization. But it's also about the engagement of the individual in the moment. People who are encouraged to learn, people who have curious leaders, we know the data is in, very clearly there's a greater level of engagement, 28% specifically, and people who are encouraged to learn broadly, some of the inside research shows that you actually get greater engagement within the organization and greater involvement. And so if you're looking for efficiency, it means you going to have people who are more in the moment living and enjoying what they're doing because of the curiosity around them and because of the learning that's present.
Power Hybrid Work With Tech That Connects
Robin recently surveyed 300+ professionals to better understand what great leadership looks like in a hybrid world.
Digital Mental Health Support: Helping Remote Workers Fight Burnout and Loneliness
The New Era of Well-Being: How to Realize Your Potential and Succeed at Work & Life
We also know that not only does it help future proof the organization but people who are exposed to a broader range of ideas, specifically from innovation for example, will tend to come up with better solutions to problems when you're in problem solving. Gino writes about that in the Harvard Business Review. So the idea that it's inefficient to give people more time to learn is actually counterproductive. By slowing down to speed up in some respects, allowing people that space to learn, you actually put in place way more important biases for efficiency within the organization.
Simon: And bring it back to your your Big Mac example from Chris Meyer earlier, Garrick, so you if you've got the anthill and all these ants being curious sort of going off in little spirals from the anthill. And then you've got the Big Mac, which is the source of food and the line of ants that's going to and from the Big Mac, the most efficient way is to stop all these ants going off in all directions, and just have all of the ants channeled in a line to the Big Mac, bringing the food back to the anthill.
But the moment that that Big Mac washes away, or is is all consumed, suddenly you've been really efficient at something that no longer matters, and you didn't have the curiosity going off exploring for new sources of food, new sources of revenue in an organization, and therefore, you're purely focusing on that efficiency at the expense of all else, may work for a period of time. But as soon as the world moves on, and the Big Mac washes away, suddenly there's a problem.
Siobhan: Okay, so I'm going to run with this nature analogy here.
Mike: I'm suddenly very hungry, Siobhan.
Siobhan: A, I want a Big Mac, and B, I want to fight those ants away from my Big Mac. So let's look at an organization and let's say it's filled with worker bees. And all of the bees are working on one thing consistently, and they're very good at it. And there is an absolute lack of curiosity because they see that curiosity is getting in the way of fulfilling their one obligation, which is gathering the honey. What do you do with that organization? I'm going to start with you, Simon.
Simon: In some way it's bringing in that curiosity so that people can be trying to find new sources for their food. So starting to sow the seeds of asking questions of could we do this differently, of finding a community, another beehive that's doing things differently, that's found a different way, understanding what they're doing differently, and then suggesting new approaches and trying those out. So going off in a different direction or trying a different type of flower, or whatever that may be, and then testing out to see whether that was successful? Did that help? And then what can we learn and how do we share from that.
And that's essentially the sort of 7C's of curiosity model that we describe in the book. Understand the context of where you are, find the community that can help you in exploring, being curious and give you new ideas or new ways or guide you, curating, so the distill the information you get, and then apply your own creativity to it, then test it out with construction, apply criticality, and then that builds confidence. So that's sort of the 7C's that gives you a model of how you can then introduce curiosity into a team and organization or a beehive.
Siobhan: Reworked is officially a nature program now.
Mike: Said in David Attenborough voice.
Alright, just to sort of wrap things up, we'd like to do a little segment called underrated/overrated where we'll throw some topics at you. You tell us if you think that thing is underrated or overrated. You can give a little bit of explanation or if not, we can move on from it.
Simon, Garrick, are you willing to play along with us here?
Mike: I'm going to start with you Simon. We didn't talk too much about your background, but you're from the UK.
Simon: That's right.
Mike: And the UK is well known for some of its chocolatiers. Cadbury was was one of them. I remember that being a big story when that was sold, a national tragedy.
Simon: Oh, yes.
Mike: But you are now living in Switzerland, which is well known for its chocolate as well. So my first question for you is Swiss chocolate overrated or underrated?
Simon: Oh, at least you didn't ask me to compare it against UK. Underrated I would say.
Mike: Underrated. OK.
Garrick: Now I can tell you why Cadbury's was a national disaster. It's so embedded in the UK because of Bondville. It comes out of the 1800s where there was a Quaker group who really created a utopian community for workers and how to live and try to create a new world. And Cadbury's chocolate was the big sort of fueling factory force for that. And there's an amazing village in Bondville, which still has all these utopian principles in place. So when Cadbury's was sold to Kraft, everybody felt, you know, that was under attack.
Mike: Chocolate has fueled that the progressive, progression of the workforce is what you're telling me?
Garrick: It has, yeah.
Siobhan: So Garrick, let's try another one. How about virtual reality for learning?
Garrick: I think virtual reality is overrated. Frankly. You talked about relationships earlier. We know that virtual reality is very good for high security situations where you need reproducibility and you need to be in scenarios. So for example, airline pilots, now is is a good time for them to be doing virtual reality. And yes, there's a lot you can do about reproducibility in those kinds of scenarios.
However, when it comes to learning with groups and creating deep meaning, yes, you can go into virtual learning, and perhaps, you know, Minecraft engines and so on are going to provide the basis for kind of working together in groups, but nothing beats an individual's curiosity and learning from whatever channel that they can find it.
Mike: So Garrick if you throw in AR, augmented reality, and perhaps mixed reality, which is the one I'm hearing a little bit more, does that change your answer at all?
Garrick: Yeah, it does. It does. And we've done quite a lot of work on the future of work, especially with Simon's organization. And if you can imagine laboratory people working on creating a new vaccine or creating a new molecule, or just doing all the testing that's required. To have some spectacles or a visor that is putting heads-up displays in front of you, on the sides, and actually contextually relevant information flowing into, we talk about learning in the flow of work, which comes from Josh Bersin, we definitely think that augmented reality has a future.
Mike: Alright, Simon, you're relatively new in the role of CLO, chief learning officer, it's actually a relatively new role. It is a new role at Novartis. But it's a role that you've been kind of operating in numerous companies for a while, or have at least been in sort of in that industry. Do you feel like the role of a chief learning officer is currently overrated or underrated?
Simon: I think I'll be in trouble if I said it was overrated.
Mike: By the way, we won't send this podcast to your CEO.
Simon: I think that having that focus for learning and then the ability to be able to engage with senior leadership to make the case for where learning can really help support business strategy has been hugely valuable, at least in my opinion, but I'm probably biased. I would say underrated but hopefully not for long. Hopefully more and more organizations will see the value in having a CLO.
Mike: Garrick, I'm gonna throw this one at you. And then I'll see if Siobhan has any other ones to close this out here. We didn't go into your background but you're a musician and a composer. And so I want to know about John Williams, the famous composer. Do you feel like John Williams — the composer of Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, many other ones — do you feel like John Williams is underrated or overrated?
Garrick: John Williams is completely underrated. I think John Williams is one of the geniuses of the 20th century. I mean, astonishing now, not only because of his creativity but if you see the speed at which he works. And then if you think, his ability to compose and put together something symphonic. I mean, you can go to the Disney Forum in Los Angeles and hear some of John Williams' work, and it's symphonic just as Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff. Beautiful. It takes you to places, tells stories. He's up there with Aaron Copland and Bernstein as part of the great American tradition. But not only that, his ability to connect with people emotionally. Think of the theme from E.T., think of the theme from Star Wars, these pieces of music, touch you, move you and stay with you. I think he's a genius, and he's underrated. But he's ... of course everybody loves him.
Siobhan: Excellent. Well, thank you so much, Simon and Garrick. If our audience wants to learn a little bit more about you, if they want to read your book, how would they go about that?
Simon: So the book is available on Amazon and all good booksellers, so called The Curious Advantage. There's also a podcast that goes with it where we've got to speak to some fascinating people, from CEOs to leading academics and thought leaders that's also called The Curious Advantage. You'll find it on Apple Podcasts or Spotify or your favorite podcast service and can find me on LinkedIn. Just look up Simon Brown.
Mike: Thank you for joining us today.
Simon: Thank you for having us.
Garrick: It's been brilliant.
Siobhan: Listening to Garrick talk about John Williams, it makes me wonder how that knowledge he has, as a musician feeds into his consultancy work and his teaching. I think that those kind of outside interests always inform us in ways that we can't predict. What do you think, Mike?
Mike: The thing that brings it home to me and I think still is the fundamental tension for me after this conversation is how you balance that artistic impulse with the brutal efficiency that is required in business, and the speed that is required for execution. I think that's kind of one of the central questions, is how do we encourage and promote the artists within our organization, but yet also make sure that the soldiers don't overwhelm them. The worker bees don't overtake the folks who are trying to do new and different things. I think that's kind of a key point there.
Siobhan: I do love how that nature kept coming back over and over again in the conversation. At one point, I think it was Simon who said that curiosity is the irritant, it's the gadfly annoying the cow to keep moving. I mean, we just had a whole pastoral scene through this entire podcast.
Mike: With a Big Mac inserted right into the middle of it, which I love.
Siobhan: With a random Big Mac.
Mike: Alright, well, definitely check out the book, the 7C's of curiosity that Simon and Garrick referenced are sort of built throughout it. So I think that there's a lot to unpack there. So definitely check it out.
Good talking to you as always, Siobhan.
Siobhan: Going to McDonald's right now, Mike.
Mike: We encourage you to drop us a line at [email protected]. If you have a suggestion or a topic for a future conversation, we are all ears. Additionally, if you like what you hear, please post a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you may be listening. And be sure to share Get Reworked with anyone that you think might benefit from these types of conversations. And then finally, be sure to follow us at Get Reworked on Twitter as well.
Thank you again for exploring the revolution of work with us and we'll see you next time.