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Staying curious

Updated: Mar 22

In nature, curiosity is key to adaptation and survival. In education, curiosity is key to lifelong learning and development. In business, long-term, sustainable success in a competitive market requires you to be doubly curious – in your position and your approach.

Staying curious means discovering a distinctive and valuable position in the market. And then hanging onto it through…

Staying curious with a relentlessly questioning approach to staying on top of what your customers value, what’s distinctive about your value proposition and your culture, and how to evolve as the world changes around you.

It sounds obvious so why is it so hard to achieve in practice? Because of the powerful and pervasive forces that will push you towards the centre ground within your industry.

It might feel lower risk and more comfortable to be ‘stuck in the middle’ with plenty of company. But it’s often the place where customers start deal-seeking, where products and services commoditise, where consolidation takes out the less efficient players and where value is destroyed. You don’t want to be there.

If we look at personal banking as an example:

  • The industry is populated by insiders who tend to have grown up within larger firms. Even if they now work for smaller disrupters, their default (and sometimes job description) is to conform to the norms (or regulatory requirements) of the industry.

  • Competitive strategy is convergent. The same analysis leads to the same conclusions. It’s a race of regression to mean, addressing the unwritten nonsense question of ‘how can we be more like other banks than other banks?’

  • The implementation of PSD2 (Revised Payment Service Directive) means that banks’ monopoly on their customer’s account information and payment services is disappearing. Barriers to switching are coming down.

Resist these pernicious pressures with our top six tips for staying curious:

  1. Keep an eye on competitors and what may first appear to be counterintuitive innovation based on their different theory of the future (that you’ll need to decode)

  2. Watch out for early signs of change – in customer behaviour, competitor performance, external environment – and keep asking “what if this became normal?”

  3. Keep asking what your customers value most about you and your offer, and why they should stick with you. Never assume that they would pick you again if they had to choose tomorrow.

  4. Keep asking ‘what need are we meeting?’ and ‘how do we meet the need in a way that’s hard to copy and creates value?’

  5. Keep learning from other industries. Who has made a bold move to get out of the sea of sameness? What can you learn from them?

  6. It’s a people business, so pay attention to culture and values – how they are exhibited in everyday behaviours, and how that impacts on colleagues and customers

How are you doing at staying curious? In the world of financial services, the best companies have strong strategy, marketing and insight teams to drive this analytical and creative questioning process.

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