Curiosity and Product

Last week, I attended a conference hoping to connect with as many business managers as possible to discuss a new product.

One of the gentlemen I spoke with was just a few years out of college and was more of project implementer than a project executive. I politely asked him a couple of questions about his job as I scouted for someone else to speak with. What happened next completely surprised me.

He had a fresh set of eyes on some of the challenges in our market and his perspective  unique compared to the feedback we usually hear. He provided a context that a more seasoned customer would not even realize was part of the problem. The conversation left me with several new ideas to take back to our team.

It was an insightful conversation that almost didn’t happen because of my assumptions and lack of interest.

When you ask what qualities you should look for in a product manager, you will hear results like:

  • determined
  • detail-oriented
  • communicator
  • problem-solver
  • empathetic
  • confident

This list goes on and while are all very important, you hardly ever hear that a product manager should be curious.

Curiosity is what drives discovery. Curiosity is what enables you to fill gaps. Curiosity is what allows you to discover something you didn’t even know you were looking for. Curiosity is what enables you to take an idea to the next level.

You might be thinking, what about being creative or innovative? In his book, A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, Brian Grazer has a great response to this question. Grazer writes,

But as indispensable as they are, “creativity” and “innovation” are hard to measure and almost impossible to teach. (Have you ever met someone who once lacked the ability to be creative or innovative, took a course, and became creative and innovative?) In fact, we often don’t agree on what constitutes an idea that is “creative” or “innovative.”

Grazer continues to make the following points on the value of being curious,

With the iPhone, the cup holder, the easy-to-use dishwasher, the engineer has done something simple but often overlooked: he or she has asked questions. Who is going to use this product? What’s going to be happening while they are using it? How is that person different from me? Successful business people imagine themselves in their customers’ shoes…. But the truth is much broader: curiosity doesn’t just spark stories; it sparks inspiration in whatever work you do. You can always be curious. And curiosity can pull you along until you find a great idea.

And one more final bit of inspiration from Grazer on why you should never stop being curious:

“We are all trapped in our own way of thinking, trapped in our own way of relating to people. We get so used to seeing the world our way that we come to think that the world is the way we see it.”

BTW – highly recommend getting a copy of A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life. It is a great read and excellent motivational reminder to stay curious.

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