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Entrepreneurial Curiosity

gretna billboardEntrepreneurial curiosity–why is it that entrepreneurs tend to be endlessly curious?

I believe it’s because satisfying curiosity will lead to opportunities or confirm that there are none. It also leads to learning.

So In Gretna, New Orleans, the other day I looked up and saw the back of these billboards and wanted to know what was on the other side. Of course they were positioned to show their message to users of the elevated expressway.

On my side, though was a huge shopping mall full of people who had to have seen the backs of the billboards as they used the vast parking lot. If they were headed to the mall, they had to have been in shopping mode. What a missed opportunity for messaging!

My curiosity is aroused dozens of times a day. About trivia and substantial issues. Thank goodness for the internet and smart phones.

Asking Questions

Curiosity implies the asking of questions. Successful entrepreneurs do that all the time. Like:

  • How are you using my product?
  • What can we do to provide you with the service you want?
  • Do you need improvements to our offer?

Curiosity drives entrepreneurs to learn their companies inside and out, and to never stop looking for ideas to improve the business. It also drives them to be open to surprise and possibility. Often an entrepreneur will hear some outlandish unsubstantiated claim and immediately wonder why it could be true or false. That’s what drove Richard Branson to enter space travel as a business.

Curiosity is the blood brother of innovation. Why not? And what’s more entrepreneurs tend to be driven by naysayers to prove the opposite. I know that I had virtually nobody who thought my business idea was a good one, including so-called experts in my field. The more I heard the response, “It’ll never work!”, the more I worked on ensuring that it would. And it did.

Ladder of Inference

LadderofInferenceEntrepreneurs naturally climb the ladder of inference. Chris Argyris , the organizational psychologist defined this theory of learning in the sixties and seventies. What it describes is the mental processes which lead us to action. It looks very abstract, but if you reflect for a moment, you’ll see how it really does represent how your own mind works.

The invisible component of the successful entrepreneurial mind is that as well as using the ladder, it does so iteratively, asking questions repeatedly. You may have heard of the ’5 whys’ technique. It’s a matter of iteratively asking why to get to the root cause of something–on each ‘rung’ of the ladder.

If you want to read more detail, then I suggest that you go to Mind Tools. They also have loads of other useful tools for you explore, since you are curious.

Fishbone Technique

The entrepreneur does this without conscious thought, but if you are starting out, you can make a conscious effort to do this as you initiate your startup. If you are a graphic thinker, an applied way to work on developing the skill is to use the so-called ‘fishbone diagram’.

It’s called a fishbone diagram, simply because it looks like one.Its proper name is an Ishikawa diagram after its creator.You can use it on the back of an envelope, on a white board, or even using an app (there’s one on iTunes). But avoid getting too fancy. When I use it, I just draw one, like this.



When you use the technique, you can ask ‘whys on whys’, adding more bones to the fish as you go along. Try it!

PLEASE NOTE: There is tons of useful stuff on Startup Owl, a site that’s been going for a dozen years. So keep browsing, but know that the founder, Will, now devotes most of his time and energy to his new website that you should definitely visit:

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