Be curious

When Corteva announced its new name last year, it also unveiled a catchy set of simply-worded core values. One of them is ‘Be curious’ with the tag line: We innovate relentlessly. We accelerate our pace of innovation to create solutions that will deliver abundant high-quality food, now and for the future.

They had me at ‘be curious’. Behaviour scientist Francesca Gino wrote an article called “The business case for curiosity” in the September/October 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review. Most inventions are the result of curiosity, Gino wrote, then emphasized that curiosity is much more important to an enterprise’s performance than was previously thought. “When our curiosity is triggered, we think more deeply and rationally about decisions and come up with more-creative solutions,” she wrote.

Gino described one of her own behavioural research projects where she sent the following text twice a week to 200 employees in various companies and industries:

What is one topic or activity you are curious about today? What is one thing you usually take for granted that you want to ask about? Please make sure you ask a few “Why questions” as you engage in your work throughout the day. Please set aside a few minutes to identify how you’ll approach your work today with these questions in mind.
– Francesca Gino

The control group in the study got a different text designed to trigger reflection but not raise their curiosity. After four weeks, the first group was more likely to make “constructive suggestions for implementing solutions to pressing organizational problems,” Gino concluded.

In the article, Gino also encouraged people to listen with curiosity, not just talk. Listening to what others are saying and doing, and asking curiosity-driven questions, can yield strong results for your own business development. Gino shared the term ‘intellectual humility,’ with a reminder that we can’t know everything: “When we accept that our knowledge is finite, we are more apt to see that the world is always changing and that the future will diverge from the present.”

We always have more to learn.

Kristjan Hebert, who runs Hebert Grain Ventures near Moosomin, Saskatchewan, explained the importance of ‘AHA moments’ during his presentation at a Digital Agriculture seminar in Saskatoon in January. Hebert, who got the idea from futurist Jack Bobo, says AHA stands for:

Aware. Can you see how the business situation is changing?

Humility. Are you humble enough to realize your current business model has to adapt?

Action. Can you identify the steps required and then boldly take those steps?

These AHA moments hinge on intellectual humility and are undeniably enhanced with a business culture of curiosity.
Which brings me back to Corteva. David Dzisiak is Corteva’s commercial leader for grains and oilseeds. He is also a board member with the Canola Council of Canada and with the new Protein Industries Canada (PIC). In the cover article in this issue, I describe PIC and the plant-based protein opportunities ahead for Canada’s canola industry. I quote Dzisiak: “The plant protein industry is growing rapidly and we want to participate and have Canada recognized as a global leader in high-quality plant protein.”
He also says, “We want the world to know what we’ve created.”
PIC exists to drive innovation within the private sector, funding ideas and potential solutions to help canola take part in fast-growing market for plant-based proteins – a market currently dominated by soybeans. What is our first requirement to see the opportunities, identify the challenges and create the solutions? Curiosity. Be curious.