The first question our strategy interns will ask when they start here will almost always be: “what makes a good strategist?”. There are many answers to give to this question but I will only give one: be curious. I am convinced that this is the first and most important quality a good strategist must have, that’s where it starts.
Mel Exon (BBH Labs) once wrote a post comparing a good journalist with a strategist, pointing out the 3 characteristics both should have:
- A relish or hunger to find out new intelligence
- The intellectual ability to see patterns in that data; see the big picture and understand the facts
- An ability to write beautifully
I like the way Mel defined curiosity. An so did Ian Fitzpatrick, who built further on the importance of it:
“What I’d impart to you is the significance of the second trait: a relish or hunger to find out new intelligence. To achieve this trait — and I think it’s something you have to work at (or at least I do) — you will necessarily adopt an interested posture. We can, and must, build practices of curiosity.
To practice curiosity is to, necessarily, seek out the messy (and occasionally amorphous) perspectives of others. To be great at planning, or I’d posit at any pursuit charged with shaping things for people, requires both that we embrace and develop a profound respect for people who are not like us.
Please don’t forget that people are messy. It’s what makes us (including you) interesting, and what makes it incredibly difficult to design one-size-fits-all solutions (or communications).”
So go out and be curious. Seek out the messy. Find new grounds to explore. Always keep asking questions. Every answer should lead to a new question. That’s what makes it all interesting, that’s how you get to new and fresh ideas.
Or as Dorothy Parker said:
“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”