#11 Courageous Curiosity

From an early age Is was curious. I wanted to create great businesses and was ready to face the risks and challenges of an entrepreneur.  Twenty two years of experience has taught me a lot but it hasn’t dented my curiosity – every day I want to learn more, experience more and be able to give back more to the world through creating great companies and franchises and sharing my advice and experience with others.

If you aren’t courageous or curious you are going nowhere! It is interesting that our brains undergo great changes from the onset of puberty, which are only complete in the mid- twenties. Neuroscientists have discovered that these changes in the brain encourage teens to take risks. This risky behaviour, which may give parents sleepless nights, also contributes to inventions and new ways of doing things – a way of keeping humankind progressing.

Let’s look at 5 young people who have had the courageous curiosity to innovate.

1 Pete Cashmore who was born in 1985 founded Mashable in 2005 the multi-platform media and entertainment company. It’s now the go-to source for digital culture, tech, and entertainment content. Pete started off writing his own content- working 16 hours days and now has a net worth of $95 million.

2 Mike Karp, founder of Tumblr, was born in 1986 and now has a net worth exceeding $200 million.

3 Evan Speigel born in 1990 is the co-founder of Snapchat; his estimated net worth is  $1.5 billion.

4 Sophia Amoruso, Nasty Gal founder and owner was born in 1984. She bought up pieces of second hand clothing and with a good eye for vintage fashion started selling her pieces online via eBay. Initially she was handling everything from buying to photographing and writing the product descriptions. Her hard work has paid off – now she sells new clothes online from her own website and is worth $250 million.

5 Mark Shuttleworth’s dad said in a TV interview that he was a little worried about their teenage son spending so much time on the computer. Mark, born in 1973 in South Africa sold his Internet security company for R3,5 billion (around US$575 million) in 1999. Guess they aren’t worried now.

Many entrepreneurs start off in their teens – coming up with ideas, pulling things apart and rebuilding them, assimilating knowledge in their field of interest and progressing from there.

Often the ideas that people reject, thinking they are too simple or fearing that others may have thought of them first, are the ones that take off because no one has actually followed through on the idea!

Challenge convention

In business we need to challenge conventional ways of doing things. There are far too many procedures in work places. People don’t challenge them – afraid they may get a slap down. But little kids ask a million questions a day it seems – they want to know how things work and the favourite is “Why?” They are making sense of their world and if we as adults don’t get into the habit of asking questions we are going to be losing out on innovation.

In meetings encourage creative questions that could lead to better solutions!

Start small

To succeed you have to fail first. How many times don’t babies fall before they learn to walk? When something fails don’t punish the person. An innovative idea needs to be tested on a small scale first so if it doesn’t work you haven’t lost a large amount. You may be lucky enough to iron out all the glitches before rolling out the new project/system/product. But if you get knocked down dust yourself off and start again.

Step back and encourage criticism

New projects may need questions from others - the ‘what ifs’ and suggestions on improvements. Often we become so wrapped up in a new project we fail to step back and view it impartially – allow others who are not on the team to ask questions! Encourage criticism.

Trust those you hire

Most new start-ups have worked from an innovative space where one person can run with an idea rather than having to follow the type of processes that large companies feel the need to impose.

Far too many companies don’t allow for innovation in the way work gets done.  Keep an eye on employees but let them work out the best strategies – there will be some constraints but their eye should be kept on the prize not the process.

Trust the people you hired and keep companies small is the advice from Warren Buffet who wrote in 2006 (http://berkshirehathaway.com/letters/2006ltr.pdf), “So I’ve taken the easy route, just sitting back and working through great managers who run their own shows. My only tasks are to cheer them on, sculpt and harden our corporate culture, and make major capital-allocation decisions. Our managers have returned this trust by working hard and effectively.”

Set the example

If you as the leader don’t show curiosity and don’t accept challenges then your team is going to follow your lead. If you are in a meeting and are not following the line of thinking on a process being presented then ask questions – it will help the presenter and team clarify their ideas and present them with flaws they weren’t aware of that need solving.

Don't go it alone

We gave examples of people who started off working long hours doing everything themselves but in order to grow you need to delegate – so yes put in the hours to get going but then companies should be run by capable people so you don’t need to be there all the time. Delegating to responsible people who are just as curious as you and who can rise to challenges leaves you free to start the next company or refine the services of the current company rather than being bogged down with details.

Actively work on building a culture of curiosity. When people realize your leadership style is one of openness to innovation and tolerance they will flourish. Captain Cook, Christopher Columbus, Thomas Edison, Marie Curie… and the list goes on, were all people whose courageous curiosity got them places!

If you want to learn more about COURAGEOUS CURIOSITY then check out www.thevisionlabs.com workshops and events.