Marketers and their Curiosity Quotient

Harish Bhat | Updated on January 12, 2018

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Why CQ is very important, and how to develop it

Most of us have heard of Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and Emotional Quotient (EQ). IQ is a measure of our ability to think and reason. EQ, on the other hand, refers to our understanding of our own emotions and our empathy for others. We know that both IQ and EQ are essential to success in the corporate world. I would like to postulate that all managers, and in particular, marketers, need a third important ability – Curiosity Quotient, or CQ – if they are to become truly outstanding professionals.

Curiosity Quotient (CQ) is a marketer’s ability to be intensely curious about the world around him. The Roman philosopher Cicero defined curiosity as “the innate love of learning and of knowledge, without the lure of any immediate profit”. The burning desire to know more and learn more is at the heart of curiosity.

The importance of CQ

Why is a high Curiosity Quotient (CQ) so important to marketers ? The first reason is that curiosity can lead to new ideas, either immediately or sometime in the future. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, has narrated how his curiosity led him to learn calligraphy, which, several years later, helped him design the distinctive Apple Mac. Bestselling author and marketing consultant Martin Lindstrom narrates in his book Small Data how he spends over 300 nights a year in strangers’ homes, observing their lives with curiosity – and how this has helped him generate brilliant new insights, including one that led to the turnaround of the famous toymaker LEGO.

When you are curious, you learn new things. And as you reflect on these new insights, some of them help trigger in your mind brilliant ideas for new products, packaging, pricing, advertising or consumer engagement. The best marketers are always excellent ideators. Curiosity can be a fertile hotbed from where many of their ideas emerge.

A high CQ is also very valuable to marketers because curiosity keeps marketers’ minds always engaged, always ticking. Over time, such constant engagement results in two positives – broadening of perspective, and sharpening of the intellect. New knowledge provokes and stimulates the mind, an exciting state which most of us love. On the other hand, lack of new learning can result in gradual mental stagnation – never a pleasant prospect for a marketer.

For instance, you may be a marketer of soaps and toothpastes, but your curiosity about entirely different products – say, cars or fashion garments or chocolates – will surely broaden your thinking, and is also likely to provide you fresh new perspectives about your consumers. Similarly, your curiosity, which leads you to visit an obscure museum, or read a new book, may end up stimulating your mind in ways that you can never imagine.

Developing curiosity

To begin with, it is important to know that curiosity is an attribute present in every person, though some people are more curious than others.

Our curiosity sometimes makes many of us want to peep into the screen of a stranger’s mobile phone, as he or she is sending a text message. We are equally curious to discover the identity of the criminal in a murder mystery novel.

So the real question for marketers is: How can we build on our innate curious nature, and cultivate for ourselves a heightened sense of curiosity? In short, how can we become high CQ marketers? This question prompted me to write a book titled The Curious Marketer, where I have examined how marketers can significantly tune up their curiosity quotient. The book contains many interesting stories of curiosity, and some simple actions that can enhance a marketer’s CQ. I have suggested seven practical actions, if you wish to become a curious marketer. Here are three of them.

Realise you don’t know it all

First and foremost, be aware that you do not know it all. The biggest stepping stone towards curiosity is being aware all the time that the universe of knowledge is vast and expanding. What you know about consumers and people is only a small part of this universe. Unfortunately, many senior marketers think that they know it all, because they have “been there and done all that” for so many years. This leads to overconfidence, which immediately dampens your curiosity quotient. One good way of ensuring that you do not fall victim to such overconfidence is to remind yourself that 90 per cent of all data in the world of marketing has been created in the last two years alone. If you are not curious to learn from this new bank of knowledge, you may soon be hopelessly outdated.

Listen, without judgement

The most curious marketers are very good listeners. When you listen with a mind that is totally open, you are willing to soak in new knowledge without any inhibiting filters.

Unfortunately, many marketers are typically articulate people who are prone to speaking more and listening less. You gain far more knowledge when you listen carefully and silently, rather than when you speak about what you already know. Here is a nice rule of thumb that I read about in an article published in the Harvard Business Review (“ Marketers, calculate your Talk-Listen Ratio”, by Jack Springman): You should listen ten times as much as you speak.

Observe, keen and fresh

The act of observing customers with a keen and fresh eye, and doing so frequently, can significantly enhance your curiosity quotient. I often tell marketers that to develop sharp customer insight, they have to keep the customer in sight.

When you watch closely how customers make their purchases at a store, or what they stock in their refrigerators at home, or how and when they use their digital devices, and so many similar pieces of “small data”, your curiosity is aroused and you begin asking why the customer has done what she has done. Customer observation is perhaps the best and most direct route to high CQ.

Curiosity may have killed the proverbial cat, but it gives many new lives to marketers. If you wish to become an outstanding marketer, you should work on enhancing your Curiosity Quotient.

Harish Bhat is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons and author of The Curious Marketer. These are his personal views.

Published on June 01, 2017

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