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The Benefits of Curiosity for Innovation

Manufacturing business consultant with a curiosity for innovation in manufacturing.

Business consulting revolves around embracing and facilitating organizational change. In this realm, one driving force propelling success is curiosity. Innovation, essential for propelling a company forward, relies on curiosity. At Enterprise Systems Partners, Inc. (espi), curiosity transcends mere inquiry; it embodies a culture that nurtures transformative growth within the company and its services. 

As espi President Vinay Govande notes, the espi team frequently asks “why” not once or twice but many times. This practice is born from our experience with Lean Six Sigma and fosters a deeper understanding of problems, leading to better, more effective solutions. Don Ortner, espi’s Vice President, elaborates on this concept, stating, “If I’m not curious, not asking questions and diving into things, then I am not seeking to create something new.” 

At espi, innovation curiosity serves as a tool applied across all consulting services, spanning operational to information excellence. Curiosity makes our service stand out. We enter every engagement confident in our professional knowledge but equally sure that we do not have all the answers. We understand that we cannot create innovative solutions by applying one-size-fits-all solutions. It is our responsibility to be curious, ask our clients questions, find other sources for deeper understanding, and gain a deep understanding of their unique strengths and challenges.  

But what is curiosity, really? How does an organization generate it? More importantly, can curiosity be taught? Let’s delve into the advantages of curiosity and divergent thinking in nurturing innovation and discovery. 

Grounding Curiosity in Realism

Curiosity embodies the spirit of inquiry, fostering the desire to learn and drive change through imagination. In today’s fast-paced business landscape, adaptability and innovation are essential for survival. Visionaries who appreciate curiosity’s role in innovation and possess the imagination to envision the next big (or small) breakthrough are crucial for companies. 

However, imagination should be rooted in knowledge. When curiosity and imagination intersect with knowledge and reality, a positive feedback loop is created. The more knowledge a company acquires, the stronger its foundation for innovation becomes. This enhances the team’s ability to pose pertinent questions and gain genuine insights into organizational or operational challenges. However, many business leaders wonder if curiosity can be cultivated as a learned skill. 

Companies can facilitate team members’ access to their curiosity and integrate this thought pattern into their organizational culture. Celebrate the curiosity demonstrated by team members. Welcome challenging questions. Encourage people to go beyond the first set of questions to develop a deep understanding of the issue or opportunity. Develop a “Yes And” environment where team members are encouraged to build on the questions and ideas laid out by their colleagues and where such challenges are considered a respectful and vital way to build innovation and competitive advantage. The best business consultants will help build this environment.  

How to foster grounded curiosity in your brainstorming:

Manufacturing business leaders gathered for open brainstorming session with business consultants.

To foster a culture of innovation and curiosity, it’s essential to create an environment that encourages open and flexible brainstorming. Start by setting clear brainstorming parameters and giving individuals the time to thoroughly research their ideas. Once the ideas have been generated, schedule a discovery conversation where these concepts can be explored collectively.  

During this discussion, foster cross-functional collaboration across the organization, breaking down departmental silos. It is equally important to refrain from shooting down ideas. Instead, employ the “Yes, and” technique to explore ideas and refine them. Improvisational comedians and musicians use this approach as a key tool in their repertoires.  

Exploring ideas is exciting, but ideas alone do not generate profitability. The hallmark of innovative companies is the conversion of ideas to reality. We will cover more on this in later posts. For now, leaders need to recognize that making ideas real is an iterative process involving experimentation and curiosity.  

In our experience, curiosity and the generation of great ideas is enhanced when bringing together individuals with diverse backgrounds, viewpoints, and perspectives in these discussions. The differing views and experiences yield more diverse solutions. In a “Yes-And” environment diversity produces better outcomes.  

In the end, exercising curiosity with our clients combined with implementing the great solutions that are developed produces a high ROI for clients such as NISCO Inc. and Nobel Biomaterials

Curiosity: Application in Action

Curiosity stands out as one of the most valuable traits you can employ. It’s the spark that ignites innovation within an organization, stemming from the desire to scrutinize processes and procedures. 

A business consultant driven by a curiosity for innovation approaches your challenges with fresh eyes and a deep desire to understand the combination of factors that make a company strong as well as the innovative solutions needed to help them thrive. Without curiosity, consultants lean on simplified approaches that overlook the unique set of characteristics that create each company’s competitive advantage.  

Addressing business challenges demands selective focus. In the realm of curiosity, operational excellence consultants take time to grasp your organization’s intricacies. This deep exploration fuels divergent thinking, pushing boundaries for transformative solutions. 

Tools to Ignite Curiosity for Innovation 

As with any discipline, there is a set of tools for innovation professionals. Our business innovation consultants go beyond providing innovation roadmaps and strategies for our clients. We help clients develop proficiency with key tools to support their innovation journey. For example, building deeper understanding of the value of potential solutions through building compelling stories.  

We also advocate (and train clients in) using various tools, like Lean Six Sigma’s Fishbone diagram. This diagram, also known as the Cause-and-Effect diagram, is a visual tool used to identify, explore, and understand the potential causes of a specific problem or issue.  

Curiosity: The Essence of Innovation at ESPI

In business, innovation involves enhancing product or service offerings. The beating heart of innovation is curiosity. Organizations embracing curiosity innovate more effectively, adapt faster, and generate greater value. Curiosity empowers our consultants to develop great solutions for our clients’ challenges. Here’s how we employ mindful curiosity in some of our service offerings: 

1. Operational excellence

Operational excellence is the art and science of streamlining internal processes within an organization to achieve the utmost efficiency and productivity. Whether it’s optimizing supply chain management for clients like B. Braun or enhancing profitability, the primary objective is always to strengthen your organization’s competitive advantage. Our approach, driven by curiosity, empowers us to deeply understand the inner workings of your business, enabling us to identify operational inefficiencies and optimize your processes. 

2. Information excellence

We are in the early stages of the fourth industrial revolution driven by the integration of the digital and physical worlds. In this era, effective collection, management, and analysis of corporate data becomes critical to sustaining competitive advantage. Enterprise Resource Planning platforms like Infor CloudSuite become the beating heart of the company’s digital strategy. To stay competitive, every company needs real-time conversion of data to useful information. espi’s Information Excellence practice begins with understanding the needs and differentiators of the business which we achieve by asking the right questions, probing for information gaps, and identifying the best way to present information for decision-making and action planning. Our consultants guide clients and selecting, implementing, and integrating Information Systems to move clients into manufacturing 4.0 and stay and stay on the cutting edge of industry trends. 

3. Innovation excellence

Peter Drucker simplified the story: “Because its purpose is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only these two – basic functions: Marketing & Innovation.”  

Organizations must strive for Innovation excellence to create customers and sustain competitive advantage. ESPI’s curiosity-driven approach guides companies to find new and exciting opportunities for both top-line growth and bottom-line improvements. We refer to our process for building an innovation roadmap as “Innovation with Purpose”. This approach embodies both guided curiosity to generate opportunities and critical analysis to set and prioritize action plans.  

We, The Curious

Ultimately, curiosity serves as the driving force behind innovation, unlocking brilliant new opportunities to lead the pack in your industry or sector. Industry leaders integrate curiosity and innovation into their culture; fueling deep understanding of opportunities which leads to transformative growth and profitability. Practical curiosity informs espi’s approach to every business challenge.  

Whatever unique qualities drive your company’s success, our team will work with you to deliver a practical, curiosity driven, and transformative roadmap to growth and greater ROI. Contact us today and set your business off on a path of transformation.