Be as Curious at Work as You Are in Life
If you’re on Etsy at all, ever, you might have seen a rather cute quote on a number of upcycled items: “Replace fear with curiosity.” That’s a fine thought for one wondering whether they should order a small instead of a medium, or take a trip to Estonia versus England. This does not apply directly to advertising and marketing, because we are never afraid … right?
But we are often unsure of the unproven.
Although planning cycles have been extended and juggled, now is the time that many of us are hewing to the hard work that sets our brand’s course for the year. And all too often, great ideas, innovative programming, unique media or stunning technology are passed over with the words, “We’re just not sure."
If we are honest with ourselves, many of us are much more adventurous in our lives than we are for our brands. We make big, bold decisions while unsure. Moving in with or marrying someone is a leap that is pretty unsure. You probably have some good data that says the whole relationship should work, but you’ve never done this before—and you do it anyway. And if it doesn’t work, we try again. “Love is not wrong, but loving the wrong person is wrong,” we tell ourselves as we dust off our Tinder profiles and get back to it.
There is a surefire way to be as careful and confident with the new in our work, yet still be bold. And that is this: every time you think an idea of any sort is unproven, and might have a failed, random, bust, boom, or even scary outcome, just think how curious you are about the outcome. Don’t think about how worried you are.
Curiosity is the straight dope. The good stuff. Uncut. The oh-my-goodness-I-licked-the-battery-but-it-felt-good stuff. The force that pulled humankind across oceans. Pushed us through atmospheres. And goaded someone to first eat an oyster. (All right, maybe the last one was hunger and not curiosity, and they’d probably watched seagulls eat them and come away all good.) But curiosity really is the dope, given that activating the curiosity center of our brain also releases dopamine.
I have a few things worked up that I believe you should be curious about instead of worried about when they come across your desk in the remainder of the year. At least once, try one. It is not failure; it is experimentation. Because if you are not sure an idea will win, you are also not sure it will fail. Take for inspiration the scientists at Northeastern who, just weeks ago, wondered what bacteria they could culture in dirt. Dirt! Guess what they found: a whole new family of antibiotics. Thanks, curiosity.
This approach applies to brands at all stages in their lifespan. If you are on a winning brand you have the most to win. And if you are on a losing brand, well, you have the most to win, too. I’m not asking you to get your brand a tattoo while at Sturgis; just a haircut for charity. It will always grow out, but most of us look better with short hair.
But on to the listicle.
- Explore a curious new discipline. Never sampled your product? Go for it. Any brand can be sampled. Never run print? Get inky. There is sure to be a pub fit to a T. Your strategy team probably has a few ideas. Don’t have a strategy team? I’m sure you’ve wondered about a few things. Go crazy.
- Venture a curious new scale. Are you a big brand? Go small. If you are a small brand, go smaller. Or bigger. Act like a brand much bigger or smaller. Just don’t act like your own size for once. Works for Wes Welker.
- Be curious to trust yourself for once. The headline that you laughed out loud at, but then said immediately, ‘No way.” Run it.
- A “Curiosity Brief.” A brief asking your agencies for something new. Make it clear that anything old or evolutionary will get mocked and won’t ever see the light of day. Show the budget set aside for it. (And please don’t say all your briefs already ask for something new. They don’t.)
- Curiosity reboot. Explore a new technology. There are too many to list but from i-beacons to the i-watch or whatever it’s called, try to be somewhere new. What have you 3D printed lately? Huh.
Another way to look at it: when was the last time you heard of someone being fired for trying something new and bold and smart? Never. But you have heard about that same person going on to work on a really great brand.
Finally, if you disagree with my opinion at all, I’m not worried. Just curious to hear your response. Send them my way.
Kevin Gosselin is vp, group creative director at Momentum New York