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G E T I N S P I R E D // W O R K S M A R T
Learn from the
OPEN VIDEO IN A NEW WINDOW
WHEN A FIN AN CE PROF ES S IONA L OR AC C O U N TA N T
TAP S IN TO C UR IOS ITY A ND AS KS A N EXT R A Q U EST I O N
OR TWO, THE R ES ULT IS OF T EN POS ITIV E C H A N GE –
I N THE FORM OF BET T ER PR ACTICES AN D I M P ROV E D
TRAN SPARENCY A ND ACCOUNTA BIL IT Y.
STORY RONELLE RICHARDS
12 ITB January 2021
Philosopher William James called curiosity
“the impulse towards better cognition”. That is
because curiosity not only fuels a hunger to learn,
but it also compels a questioning of the status quo.
Throughout history, curiosity has led to
countless innovations and technological
advancements. Albert Einstein has been known
to credit curiosity with some of his greatest
intellectual feats. “I have no special talent,” he
once said. “I am only passionately curious.”
While in early childhood we are encouraged
to be inquisitive, by the time we reach higher
education, we are often inclined to showcase our
know-how instead. Most will agree that curiosity
has a place in the business world; however, curious
exploration is often misunderstood and dismissed
as wasted time. This is truly unfortunate.
Those who buck the trend and choose to follow
their curiosity can push beyond the expected
and achieve some incredible feats. Take the case
of Leland Melvin, the first professional athlete to
become a NASA astronaut. In his TED talk, which
has been watched more than 1.7 million times,
Melvin credits his curiosity with the decision to
pursue his new, otherworldly career.
Curiosity is also what drives serial entrepreneur
Ian Hopkinson, founder of Mad Scientist Digital
and co-host of the Human Hackers podcast.
Hopkinson says that, for him, being curious is
the first step to success, and a leader needs to
be able to combine the results of their team’s
curiosity to produce innovative outcomes.
“There’s a pressing of the ‘reset’ button, not
just in our everyday lives, but in our businesses,
and that means asking our people where
they’re at, what their ideas are for the vision
of the business moving forward, dialling up
collaboration and just being a really good
listener,” he says.
“If you’re not curious, you’re not growing,
you’re not leading, and you’re not succeeding.”
HOW CURIOSITY BENEFITS BUSINESS
“It’s an interesting one, that historically in
accounting ‘curiosity’ has potentially been a
bit of a dirty word or a dangerous topic,” says
Tim Garth CPA, director of New South Walesbased CATS Accountants and co-host of the
podcast series Two Drunk Accountants.
Curiosity and creativity are perhaps not
a good approach for tax and compliance
matters, Garth jokes. However, rather than
something to avoid, Garth encourages his
staff to apply curiosity whenever appropriate.
The CATS Accountants team has a planning
day twice a year to share and debate new
ideas. They also take one afternoon off a
month for team events such as gin tasting
or bowling, to foster their curiosity outside
the office setting.
Psychologist Julian Tatton, director at
The Mind Group, suggests that, before blindly
following curiosity wherever it may lead, it is
critical to first assess whether it is healthy
“If it’s a healthy curiosity, you can end up
with better client services and higher sales,
as you connect more with your clients, and a
much better product and service to suit their
needs,” Tatton says.
“But a simple [misplaced] question can
go into the hundreds of thousands, if not
millions, of wasted dollars,” he says. Unhealthy
curiosity comes through questions that annoy,
intrude or frustrate, and such curiosity can be
detrimental and obstruct a business’s ability to
produce a positive outcome.
According to Tatton, a good leader will
be able to reflect upon questions, will take
the time to consider if the team’s curiosity
is healthy, and will emphasise that questions
need to contribute to a shared goal.
CURIOSITY “CRITICAL” POST-COVID-19
Leaders may be concerned about bottom lines
in a post-COVID-19 world, questioning whether
their firm can afford the hours needed to be
curious. For Garth, the answer is obvious.
“Yes, you might be worried about shrinking
returns, less profit, less time or tighter margins
on your jobs, but if you’re not approaching
things with curiosity or innovation frontof-mind, then that’s always going to be a
problem,” he says.
Garth argues that the businesses likely to
report diminishing returns are the ones that
are not curious or innovative, and ones that
fail to ask difficult questions of themselves
or their teams.
Tatton agrees that COVID-19 has created a
need to innovate and shifted the perception of
innovation from a nice-to-have to a must-have.
“It’s not just valuable, but it’s also critical for
“If you weren’t curious about your clients’
needs at this time, you’ll probably lose them
to firms who are interested.”
intheblack.com January 2021 13