Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Obvious or Curious?

Well, before I start with this post, I want to ask you to read through the dictionary meaning of a couple of words, at least the one explanation that makes sense in this context.

Read up here on
obvious and curious.

Now that we have, let’s get down to the post. This one’s really got me thinking.

  • Does good talent take jobs that state the obvious? Or ones that leave them a bit curious?

  • Do employees like reading a user manual (obvious) before using the intranet/HRIS? Or will they use it better if you create curiosity about the application?

  • Can managers retain the best folks by opting for a natural career progression for everyone? Or will a few of them opt for a more risky career path if they find something curious?

  • Is that sales person pitching your product in the way that’s sounds obvious? Or is he willing to create some curiosity in the customer & let him try it out first?

If you still haven’t answered truthfully, then maybe this post won’t have an impact on you. Cause the answer is screaming at us. Most of us (at least starting with me and many that I know personally) including talent, managers, sales folks, marketing honchos, customers & even the front desk receptionist, among so many others, love stuff that tickles brain-cells. We are constantly looking for something that conveys curiosity, stuff that’s compelling enough to take on the risk. It’s a battle of the obvious versus curious choice. Before you jump at a conclusion, it’s OK to take a side. Go ahead and pick your choice. It’s perfectly alright.

It only starts getting murky when the leader picks obvious and implements it without considering the curious set of people. Towing the line is then, the only option. However, repercussions of this will be experienced when the market picks up and the curious lot will be find jobs that suit them better.

So what’s this choice got to do with HR, staffing or employee relations? It does mean a lot. In fact it means creating a work environment with a difference.

The obvious choice is to play it safe. Create enough policies so that HR doesn’t need to answer any questions. Make the hiring process predictable enough to hire mediocre candidates. Rate every employee as a high-performer and not worry about the side-effects until it happens (like a lay off). Follow industry benchmarking even when you know you can do much better. Implement processes that doesn’t give room for people to question or improvise.

On the other hand, you have curious. It has people who like to question status quo. They take the time & effort to find alternate solutions. They’re inquisitive by nature and are constantly looking at raising the bar. Setting new standards in benchmarking is a norm. Willing to take risks and they are fully aware of the repercussions and have solutions for that too. Curious is always ready to engage employees in an open manner and strive towards creating an inclusive work culture.

If you are in HR and are telling me that allowing curious is a culture thing or is a numbers driven issue at a very big organization, I’ll strongly disagree. If it were that, the curious lot would have left you in their very first month on the job! Really. I suppose it’s then an individual trait. Some managers are allowing for it to grow, while many others are curbing it at the very start. As a HR person, are you having discussions with the business to allow for that curious mind to grow? That’s the HR power that you will bring to the table. Start with one and you’ll be surprised that there are more people than you can think of in your company who’ll endorse that view.

So when will you start?