Being A Sidekick For Business Success With Daniel T. Rogers

“In a world where everyone wants to be a superhero, the best strategy is to be the sidekick.” Daniel T. Rogers believes that as a sidekick, you get to work with a lot of people, compared to being a superhero. Learn how it’s Dan’s duty to help and teach business leaders how to grow and run a business. Dan is the CEO of Point to Point Transportation, a specialized shipping company, and his most recent venture, Sales Sidekick. Join your host, Dr. Diane Hamilton, and Dan discuss the shipping industry, being the sidekick, and how studying your customers is key. Plus, Dr. Hamilton also shares her insights on fueling innovation and creativity with curiosity. In a time of uncertainty, learn how to adapt to an ever-changing world. Find out why some crash and burn because they refuse to innovate and why the innovators bask in all the glory.

TTL 874 | Being The Sidekick

 

I’m glad you joined us because we have Daniel T. Rogers here. He’s the Founder of Point to Point Transportation and he also got a new venture called Sales Sidekick. It’s going to be a fascinating show.

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Being A Sidekick For Business Success With Daniel T. Rogers

I am here with Dan T. Rogers who was the Founder of Point to Point Transportation, which is an Inc. 5000 participant seven years in a row. His recent venture is Sales Sidekick, which involves the systemization of intentional design and how to share it with other viable businesses. He works with businesses where he finds their number one obstacle, which is usually sales and he transforms that obstacle into their greatest asset. It’s nice to have you here, Dan.

Thanks for having me. We are excited to talk about it.

I’m excited to talk to you as well. A lot of people find it helpful to find out your backstory before we go ahead to see what led you to this point in your career.

I was a long, confused, mislabeled sales guide but looking in the rearview mirror, I have been a systems guy my whole life and there have been different applications of that but it started with literal applications of physically moving furniture as a truck driver. I helped grow fast food restaurant chain and then I’ve got into sales. I bought the company that I was selling for but all along the way where I have been successful is I have a systems brain. I look at things in systems and I’m a systems guy. That’s what I do.

I love that you are a former burrito roller.

I have dropped out of college to roll a burrito.

I was looking at your Sidekick logo with the superhero mask. I am interested in hearing about that. First, I want to find out about Point to Point.

Point to Point was founded in 2002 and it took us a little while but eventually, in 2008 we went all-in on trying to become the best corporate event shipping company that we could be. Since 2008, that’s what it has been focused on. It’s a highly specialized shipping company. We do a little bit more for our clients than just ship their stuff to corporate events.

What our website says and what people think of us is a shipping company but being a systems guy, we frequently help out with other back-of-house operational systems things like asset management, labor utilization. That’s what Point to Point does. Pre-COVID, we did 10,000 events on five continents. It kept us busy.

I’m always interested since I talked to a lot of CEOs and you are a CEO, board member and all the things you do, my research is in developing curiosity and getting people out of status quo behaviors and that’s what I do. I go to companies and I help them with that. I saw you listed your CliftonStrengths and stuff on your site, and I do a lot with assessments and helping people with that. How much do you do in that respect with your company? Do you do a lot of personality assessments? Do you do the StrengthsFinder or some other thing? I’m curious about that.

With virtually everything, we learned something and then there’s this massive learning curve. Unfortunately, as you get older you eventually get things right. We started initially leaning on the DISC, we use that and then led us to some other things. StrengthsFinder came in behind that and then Kolbe is a big part of it. I am starting to get my head around the PRINT test and my guess is we will probably apply to the PRINT test as well.

TTL 874 | Being The Sidekick
Being The Sidekick: When you’re in the mindset of re-engaging on where they are, not what you think they should be or how they should be, you get to be at your best.

 

The Kolbe helps build out teams and it wasn’t surprising but it was surprising at the same time. When we first implemented Kolbe at Point to Point, three folks were instrumental. We were great partners internally and it wasn’t surprising that those three folks had similar Kolbe scores, which complimented my Kolbe score well. When you get that level of insight initially, when you first do something it’s like, “There’s something here.” Kolbe is probably the one that we try to utilize most. They are all valuable and have different facets. You are the doctor, you can tell me more than I can tell you.

I find it interesting. I did write a book on some of the different personality assessments. I have had Rath from StrengthsFinder and different people on the show. I offer DISC and different things on my site, too. I’m curious about your DISC profile, you didn’t list that on your site.

We did that one long ago and I can’t take it again because I can game it. If I remember correctly, the first time I took it I was 88 D and 89 I. S was in the 40s. I was super offended I had five on the C. I tried to eradicate it ever since that test got finalized.

It’s funny to look at things positively or negatively. It’s fun for me to look at assessments. I wrote my dissertation on emotional intelligence and that got me interested in giving emotional intelligence tests, DISC and some of the Myers-Briggs. I am ESTJ. High DI in the DISC and the same things you are talking about. It’s fun that led to my interest in what companies are doing to improve curiosity. I was wondering, what things do you do at Point to Point to develop curiosity?

We didn’t use those words exactly but what we did when I was actively involved in recruiting process, I eventually became the last stop on the block to see if there was a good fit. When I was still actively involved, we would interview people and we tried to honor them as best we could. We would be super respectful and gave them little gifts along the way like books and that stuff but when it started to get pretty real, we would do a group interview.

I would facilitate the group interview and we want to see how they were in a competitive stressful situation and then after about 25 minutes of questions, I would usually pick on the person who at that point represented themselves the best. Frequently there was more than one but I pick on somebody who had done well up to that point. “Vision is an important thing. We can all take it for granted but without a vision, we can’t be successful. Can you give me your vision statement for your life?” You don’t have one.

No stress.

I’m just being a jerk and having some fun but what I would love to do is I can facilitate an exercise that I was shown in five minutes and we are all going to write a vision exercise now. I would take them through that five-minute exercise. I just want to see if they would play. I don’t care what they came up with but would they jump in this room where they don’t know anybody? Vision statements are the spooky thing. It was more to see, not if they were curious per se but, would they engage, jump in and figure stuff out?

What’s your vision statement?

I believe I exist to use my passion and creativity to help people figure out what they want and how to get it.

That’s a great way to put it and you’ve got a lot of interesting things that you have worked on that go along with that. You have developed this sidekick philosophy, which I’m interested in finding out what that is. Let’s go down that road. What is that?

Vision is an important thing, that without it you can't be successful. Click To Tweet

That’s what we talked about. What became obvious to me first as an individual is that I showed up best. I didn’t use the word sidekick initially but it’s several years that I have been using it. We have been using it at Point to Point for a long time but I have been using that longer. My best version is when I show up and try to align myself to something bigger than me, whether that’s the universe itself, part of an organization or whatever.

It’s because of my zippy personality, I frequently find myself in leadership or whatever but when I’m at my best, it’s not because I declared myself the leader or the superhero, it was more as a sidekick trying to get something else done. Bigger than me, that’s my best way to show up. It’s my own best personal strategy to be effective.

As I went more forward, we start training more people, hire people, supervise people and all that. Start thinking about it and got more intentional about it. If folks have a way that worked for them, go with it but there’s probably a fairly strong practical argument that in a world where everyone wants to be a superhero, the best strategy is to be the sidekick.

It’s better to be Robin than Batman.

It’s not because they take the bullets or whatever but you can be a sidekick to a lot of different people. If you are the superhero, you are just a superhero.

Is it like a mentorship kind of thinking? What does a sidekick do?

This is where it works in every facet of my life. I’m at my best when I’m honoring and trying to understand who that person is and what they are trying to do. That’s what made me successful initially in sales. My wife, family and coworkers will testify that when I’m in the mindset of remembering or re-engaging on where they are, not what I think they should be or how they should be, there’s no question. That’s how I met my best. It’s who are they, where are they trying to go and how can I help them. I have all this great experience, incredible network or maybe I just need to shut up and listen, whatever it is, how can I be their sidekick?

That involves a lot of curiosity.

I am a curious person. A huge part of our sales training is to shut up, listen and be curious.

It’s funny because I was in sales for most of my career, and they trained you out of asking questions in the day because they would say, “You’ve got to say this. You’ve got to say that. You only have this much time. You better get this in.” What I found in my research in what inhibits curiosity is fear, assumptions, which is the voice in your head, technology, over and underutilization of it and environment, everybody you have had contact with your entire life.

What was interesting to me when I studied that and why I created the Curiosity Code Index was because I wanted to figure out how to improve it. What I found was all the assessments just tell you if you are high or low levels but what if you are low? What do you do? What you are onto is what I was trying to do as well is get people that ask more questions to research what it is that’s holding them back and ask other people more things. If you are asking, you are developing that empathy, which is a big part of emotional intelligence. What are you finding from this? I wanted to get you to add to that.

TTL 874 | Being The Sidekick
Being The Sidekick: Instead of spending money on technology and salespeople, you should use what you got. Study the market, the community, and the people that you serve.

 

I have eight restraints, we might get into those later but one of them is number five, copy off the smartest kid in class. That can change mid-sentence. I can change mid-sentence, no question. It copies not steal or rob, respectfully.

It’s like reinventing the wheel.

Recognize that somebody smarter has already thought about this much longer and harder. The guy that I stole this from, calls it the hierarchy of the content of the mind. The progression is data, information, knowledge, understanding and wisdom. One of our big challenges is that we have a bunch of unearned wisdom in our lives now. When we engage people, we are only going for information. It’s a pretty sophisticated person that’s getting knowledge and it’s super rare that somebody talks to somebody to understand.

I don’t want to turn it into a sales pitch but what made me successful when I was in sales before I bought the company was it, certainly because I was curious, there’s no question and because I was a systems guy. I wanted to truly understand how their company was set up, what their part was in the company, what made them successful and if I fit in with any of that. Just because they had big stuff to move didn’t mean that we were the right fit but when you listen for understanding and learning, it’s a different process than listening for a need. It’s deeper and there are a lot more values created, too.

People need to have that sense of the core culture of the company improve, once curiosity. I had Francesca Gino on the show who’s a famous professor at Harvard. She did a case study for HBR that showed that leaders believe that they encourage curiosity more than employees believe that they did. How do you know if you are getting people to see your same vision in your culture is what you think it is?

I have been delusional on both ends of that spectrum. I reserve the right to be again in the future. I thought we did but the results weren’t bearing that out. I’ve got my own slice zippy personality. For the longest time, I hadn’t written down my restraints but I had been saying mistakes at full speed for as long as I could remember. I was saying that and it would freak people out because most people think of mistakes as a bad thing. Mistakes are part of the process.

It fails forward kind of thing.

The compliance thing is like 500 clients who get offended by it. I stopped saying it out loud because it wasn’t playing well inside the company but we certainly kept that mindset. Folks, we are concerned about making mistakes. When we revision the company and got things a little bit more cleared up, the way that I would measure, whether we are doing it is where are the innovations in the company happening? What role?

The part when I thought we are doing well is when somebody else came up with an idea that I was positive that I wouldn’t have thought of or somebody else on my leadership team wouldn’t have thought of. That to me is how I would measure it. Even though we wanted to foster that, training about it, and all that, we probably got a C minus or a D on it in actuality. It’s hard to do. One thing to do as the leader and build the culture and then be respectful to all the folks that I have worked with. There are a lot of folks that don’t want to do it.

What’s in it for me mentality sometimes there’s a perception, don’t you think?

I’m going to go off-topic but come back. Almost always the last stop in getting hired is you are sitting at my desk or on the phone. Everyone is already figured out that you can do the job. I’m just trying to get a sense of, “Is this somebody that we want to play with?” People would tell me, “I like to grow.” Especially when it’s face-to-face, be careful because two things I can guarantee.

In a world where everyone wants to be a superhero, the best strategy is to be the sidekick. Click To Tweet

One is I’m going to make some bad decisions. Two, you are going to have more opportunities to grow than probably ever had in your entire life because we are growing. I have been on a growth curve since 1994. That’s the back of my baseball card. It’s all growth. You find out that my experience is, God bless them, we love them but most people don’t want to grow.

They want more status quo.

They want to show up, be competent and know what they are supposed to do. I don’t think that makes them seem rational people but there are crazy folks that are like, “I want to take the unknown and risk.” The financial risk is easy. The emotional risk and the risk of being wrong are far worse than the financial risk.

As you say that it goes back to those assumptions that people have their voice in their head of what they are telling, that’s what I’ve got the most out of when I have trained companies. I get to see the light bulb over their head as they are looking at what kinds of things hold them back and a lot of it is what we tell ourselves like, “It’s going to be too hard. They are going to give me more work and not pay me,” or whatever it is.

In sales, there are a lot of fear-based things. Barry Rhein has been on my show who teaches curiosity and sales at Stanford and has dealt with a lot of people who look at this. Sales used to be the extrovert’s game. How much could you talk more than how much could you ask? Introverts have gotten a bigger part because we’ve got teams now. Some people are good at one thing. Some people are good at other things. What is the biggest difference Sales Sidekick having from the traditional sales approach other than question asking?

The first thing is by systems design. We are obsessed with putting a stake in the ground, is that we are going to pour enough value into the marketplace that people across the street, the room to do and ask to do business with us. You talked about lead gen and demand gen it’s like, “How about if customer gen?” We added a customer week for six and a half years without salespeople and a customer was a full-blown corporation not as a coworker. I don’t know how many of those we have.

We have hundreds of those but we might also have lost twenty customers a week because as much as we liked the customers, thank you for sending us money, we only engage with our clients. Our clients had been vetted as customers. We could do world-class work for our clients and we could do work that the customers thought was great but we were designing, leading and running the company for our clients. That’s what the difference is. I’m not opposed.

There have been years in my past where we had seven digits on technology and some of our biggest, longest-standing client relationships are with tech companies. I’m not opposed to tech but putting a Ferrari carburetor in a Honda is pointless. Most of the technology across the board is about optimizing parts, which has nothing to do with improving the whole. It’s a violation of the first tenet of systems thinking. That’s what we do because we are knuckleheads in the West it’s like, “If I fix this, it will be fine.” No, you will have a carburetor that doesn’t work well. That’s what you end up with.

I have been that person. I have learned. I have had intellectual insight then put it in the lab at Point to Point and then ten years later we are like, “Maybe we learned something here. We finally got this right after ten years of tweaking on it.” That has been my experience with it. Where we are different is we are going to ask, I don’t like calling it a business but the system creates far more value than they are holding themselves accountable to.

That takes a lot of work in the setup but once you get that framework correct, that leads you on an innovation path, which is where you want to be anyways. It’s better in the long run term instead of spending money on technology, salespeople and all this other stuff. It’s like, “What if we went to work and we studied the market, community and the people that we serve, and how could we create so much value for them that they would cross the street to do business with us?” That’s a significant part of what we are doing. How we interact with the customers is the “sales training” or whatever but it’s more predicated on better systems.

This sales training, you don’t necessarily only do it at Point to Point, you offer it to other organizations, right?

TTL 874 | Being The Sidekick
Being The Sidekick: Curiosity is a critical indirect link to improving motivation and communication-based issues.

 

Yes. What happened was with COVID-19 and Point to Point being what we were, we’ve got a hard stop in February 2020. Technically, our core business as of August 2021 has not come back yet. We have done a couple of things but in our real business, we haven’t done anything yet. After doing all the brutal things that you have to do in those circumstances, my network is several hundred business owners. The ones that had different challenges than I did, I said, “I would love to help out if I can.”

I did some pro bono consulting and everyone got what they paid for and some of that led into some other things that led in some things that were fun but by the time we’ve got to the fourth quarter of 2021, two different folks had said, “The way that you talk about sales and marketing, I’m not sure I understand how your company was set up but the way that you talk about your company was set up, that’s not normal and that’s super interesting. Can you teach my people how your people “sold?” Can we talk about how your company is set up?” We launched Sales Sidekick in February 2021.

A lot of people want to know about this. It ties into all the research I found, the importance of all the things you are talking about. If somebody is reading this and they want to get more information about Sales Sidekick or anything else that you offer, how would they find that?

The best thing to do is reach out to me on LinkedIn, Dan T Rogers, and they can schedule some time. I will talk to anybody. I just reserve the right to learn more than they do. I would love to talk to folks about it. SalesSidekick.com has a website. It’s simple for a reason but will stand behind everything that’s there. It’s all based on some fairly large abstract concepts but there is a way to get it to the grounded promise. We are hoping that folks that find this appealing will give it a try.

The customers that we are targeting are viable companies. They have already figured out how to be successful but then their sales have stalled. I can probably tell them why their sales have stalled. Most of the ones that I have seen out of the hundreds of folks that I have known over the last years that run businesses is there are wonderful technician or a craftsman and I want to be respectful, they are frequently doing cool things but they are the business. They are fantastic and business comes to them because they are great. They delegate lower-level work and that gets away for a while but pretty soon if they are not on the frontline of the business, it can’t be what it was.

As a systems guy, we can help fix that but as we are doing that, we can help them figure out how to make sure that the value creation into the marketplace is big enough that you could add a customer a week for six and a half years. That’s what we are doing. The sidekick mentality is the SalesSidekick boot camp or whatever is on how you get that mentality. In your words curious is a great word. It hasn’t been a big part of what we have talked about up to this point but it’s going to be a bigger part. There’s no question.

Top companies are building it into their core culture, the same with Verizon, Novartis and people I have worked with see the value in it, whether you call it curiosity, getting out of the status quo or whatever you want to call it, you are on the topic there.

One of the folks that we work with now, they are a technical company and there isn’t a dumb person in the company. They are all genuinely brilliant people. Not just the management, leadership team but the service delivery folks also, order takers as well. I’m like, “You guys have this big brain just off the statement of work.” Ask about them. Ask about like, “What happens before you call me? What happens after? Who else is going to see this? What are they going to do?”

I was surprised when we talked about it. It still draws me up short that folks know little about their customers. They know precisely how to deliver phenomenal service that’s why they are viable but they don’t know the rest of what’s happening. With that larger frame of understanding, there are a lot more that we can do while we are here and it all starts with curiosity. I don’t think you can fake it. If you are not genuinely curious, just go deliver. Let’s get the curious people. You can be extroverted in interviews.

That’s funny. It’s important what you are doing. A lot of people will reach out to you and this was interesting, Dan. You are doing some amazing things. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Thanks for having me. I enjoyed the conversation.

When you listen for understanding and learning, it's a different process than just listening for skill. Click To Tweet

It was fun.

This show is going to be a little bit different and I’m excited about it because I’m going to be talking about curiosity. I talk on a lot of other people’s shows about what I work on but I want to talk to you about the value of building curiosity within your organization. I’m my guest. In addition to hosting this show, I am also the Creator of the Curiosity Code Index. I wrote the book Cracking The Curiosity Code. I give a lot of presentations where I talk about the importance of improving curiosity and getting out of status quo thinking. It sometimes helps if I share a story that you might find fascinating.

A lot of organizations are held back by a culture that doesn’t embrace curiosity. They just go along with the way things have always been. I like to talk about an experiment that I shared on stage about hidden camera experiments where they looked at how quickly people go along with the group. This woman went into a doctor’s office thinking she’s getting an eye exam but not known to her, everybody in the waiting room weren’t patients, they were actors.

Every so often, an experiment that was going on and where they would have a bell ring. Every time that bell would ring, all the actors around her, which she thought were patients, would stand up and sit down with no explanation. After three times hearing the bell ring and without knowing why she was doing it, the woman stood up and sat down conforming with the group. They thought, “This is interesting, she’s going along with what everybody else is doing. Let’s see what happens if we take everybody out of the room.”

They call everybody back as if they were patients one at a time and eventually, she’s alone in the room and the bell rings. What does she do? She stood up and sat down and she doesn’t know why she’s doing it. She’s just going along with what everybody else has done. They thought, “This is fascinating. Let’s add some people to the room who are patients and see how she responds to the bell ringing and see how they respond.”

The bell goes off and she stands up and sits down. The gentleman next to her looks at her and says, “Why did you do that?” She said, “Everybody else was doing it. I thought I was supposed to.” The next time the bell rings, what do you think he does? He gets up and sits down with her. Slowly but surely, what was a random rule for one woman is now the social rule for everybody in that waiting room.

That’s an internalized behavior that we call social learning. We see what other people do and we think, “That’s what I want to do because everybody else is doing it,” and we reward ourselves because we don’t want to be excluded. It’s just a part of how conformity can be comfortable but going along with it, you get bad habits, you stunt growth, you get the status quo thinking and that can be the downfall of organizations. When we do things just because they have always been done in a certain way, we don’t progress and look for other ways to find solutions. I want to go beyond that. I want to know why we are doing things. Why is it important? What are we trying to accomplish?

That’s what I talk to companies about that because they need to look at how and where are they modeling thought and fostering curiosity. What action plans do they have in place to avoid status-quo thinking? Do they have all the answers? How can they take what they learn from different events and utilize that to make some changes? It’s important because curiosity has been the foundation behind the Model T to self-driving cars. We know that leaders believe they encouraged curiosity and exploration.

I have had Francesca Gino on the show. She has done a lot of great research in this area. We know that most of the employees don’t feel rewarded for it if they explore their curiosity. If we want organizations to generate innovative ideas, we have to help them through leaders developing that desire to explore.

My job is to be curious. I ask questions and get information for a living and I do that through the show, teaching, speaking and everything I do. It’s something I want to share with other people because it’s a huge part of what makes companies successful. I look at curiosity as the spark that ignites the process that everybody is trying to achieve.

Think of it as baking a cake. If your goal is to bake a cake, you’ve got all these ingredients. You have eggs, milk and flour, whatever it is you take to bake the cake, you mix it, you put it in the pan and you put it in the oven. What happens? If you didn’t turn on the oven, you get goo. Nothing happens.

TTL 874 | Being The Sidekick
Being The Sidekick: Think inside your cubicle or your silos, but sometimes you need to think outside your industry. Some of the greatest ideas can come from that.

 

That’s a huge problem that organizations are trying to get, instead of cake, they are trying to get productivity. We are trying to make money. They know the ingredients. They know they want motivation, drive, engagement, creativity, communication, all the soft skills and all that stuff. They are mixing those ingredients and what they are not doing is turning on the oven. The oven, the spark, is curiosity. If you don’t turn on the oven, no one gets cake. That’s what I’m trying to talk to companies about.

We know that kids are naturally curious. I love a picture from the San Francisco Museum of Art from Life Magazine in 1963. They have these two little girls who are adorable looking through this grate on the wall that they can see behind the air conditioning vent kind of thing. They are supposed to be looking at all the artwork on the walls, of course, because it’s the San Francisco Museum of Art but what do the kids do? They want to see what’s behind the vent. We are all that way.

Three-year-olds ask their parents about 100 questions a day. At that age, you are just curious, you want to find out how everything works. There’s some time that we eventually lose some of that. Think about it, when did you stop wanting to look behind the vent? Did somebody say, “Stop that, get up you are getting dirty. Don’t look behind there?” We get that, that’s what our parents do, you have to behave but we have seen a big decline in curiosity and creativity.

There are some great TED Talks about the creativity aspect, which ties in similar to what we see in curiosity. It peaks around age five, and then it tanks as soon as you go through school and about the age of 18 through 31. We are even seeing low levels. Sir Ken Robinson has a great talk about how we educate people out of our creativity and out of our competencies. George Land also has a great talk about his work with NASA, he looked at kids and followed them.

At age five, he found that 98% of children were creative geniuses and then by the time they were 31, only 2% were. It was a huge difference. George Land says that we have convergent and divergent thinking. He talks about it in terms of we put on the gas and try to come up with all these great ideas but at the same time we over criticize them and we put on the brake. Anybody who drives a car knows that if you put the brake at the same time you put on the gas, you don’t go far.

That’s what’s happening to our curiosity and our creativity. I thought, “This is interesting because curiosity can translate into serious business results.” CEOs get that but a lot of them are not investing in the culture of curiosity but some of them are doing some amazing things. I want to talk about what is the cost of lost curiosity. What is it? There are many aspects of what costs companies. We know that they are losing $16.8 billion due to emotional intelligence if you ask the Consortium for EI or if you look at Gallup’s numbers, they are losing $500 billion a year due to poor engagement.

I have seen everything with communications. Holmes has it at $37 billion and I have seen much higher. It depends on where you look but we are talking tens to hundreds of billions for each of these issues, emotional intelligence, communication and engagement. It’s a huge problem out there. Companies know that they are losing money but they don’t recognize the value sometimes of curiosity. We would talk about curiosity, there’s a big innovation factor. We want to be more innovative but we are worried about job loss and jobs being automated.

The majority of the Fortune 500 companies from 1995 are gone. No one wants to be Kodak or Blockbuster. We know that Netflix ate Blockbuster’s lunch. The reason those companies are not here is that they looked at things from the status quo way that they have always done things. They didn’t want to cannibalize their product and the success they had. If you do that, the world keeps moving and you get stuck. That’s a huge problem.

What was interesting to me to study curiosity is that there are a lot of research on curiosity but there’s not the great statistics I would like to see. There’s a state of curiosity report that Merck did in 2018 and it showed that curiosity was higher in larger companies than smaller ones. It was 37% versus 20%, and then Millennials were more curious than Gen Z and Boomers. The US had a higher level of curiosity compared to China but maybe they weren’t as high as Germany. That’s just one report. I would like to see a lot more research done. It’s fun to look at what experts have shared regarding the value of curiosity.

Francesca Gino did a great job with the HBR article she wrote. I loved having her on the show. I hope you check out that show because it’s amazing. In that report, she talked about leaders recognize curiosity is important and they think that they are encouraging it. We found that most of the employees don’t believe that, only 24% feel like they are curious about their jobs and 70% said they face barriers to staying curious and asking questions. She has done some great research. If you get a chance, I recommend reading that show and also check out that HBR article.

I have had Daniel Goleman on the show, he was incredible. He talked about how emotional intelligence ties in. He was cute because he said he couldn’t see why I developed a measure of curiosity because I’m curious. He was talking about an article in HBR as well by Claudio Fernández-Aráoz saying that, “Curiosity is one of the most important competencies in the future.” That’s a huge plug for curiosity coming from Daniel Goleman. He was talking about younger generations question organizational missions more than older generations. We’ve got into a great discussion about that. I hope you take some time to read to that show.

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Another great episode on the show was with Amy Edmondson who has an incredible TED Talk. She gets into curiosity and how it ties into collaboration. She does a TED Talk about teams and teaming and she gets into how the Chilean miner disaster was able to be resolved. A lot of it was because of curiosity. She says, “You’ve got to look at what are you trying to get done, your goal, what’s in your way, your concerns, worries, barriers and stuff like that. What resources, talents, skills and experience do you bring?” She talks about how they did all that to get those Chilean miners out from under that rock. It is worth watching her TED Talk. All of them have TED Talks that are amazing.

A great guest as well on the show was Doug Conant, the guy who turned around Campbell’s Soup. He did that by asking questions. He asked employees what motivated them, and then he looked at how to build engagement by writing 10 to 20 personal notes six days a week. He counted 30,000-plus, which is huge. When he took over in 2002, they had 12% engagement. By 2009, they were up to 68%. He did some amazing things by asking questions, writing comments and giving input. All that stuff comes out of curiosity.

Another great guest of the show was Zander Lurie who’s the CEO of SurveyMonkey. They are so much into curiosity. They’ve got permission to change their street address to 1 Curiosity Way. I love that. I was asking him some of the things that they do because they have a culture of curiosity there. They asked, “How can we make our products more productive for our customers? How can we create an environment where people do their best work?” He says, “They do skip-level meetings so that he can find out what works and what doesn’t.”

Those are some examples of people who were on the show. Other examples are fascinating. Some companies like Monopoly, Ben & Jerry’s, VanMoof bicycles, I have looked at some of them to see how they used curiosity to go a step further. Monopoly did some research because they always come out with the dog’s version or cat’s version.

They didn’t want to come out with another version. They decided to come out with some research to find out what people did with Monopoly and what they can learn about it. They found out that a lot of people cheat. Over half the people cheat when they play Monopoly so they came out with the Cheater’s Edition. That was their second-biggest release since the initial release of Monopoly. It was a cool thing.

Ben & Jerry’s got some interesting information. What they do in terms of not getting into status-quo thinking is they don’t keep flavors around forever. They research to find out what’s working. They ask questions, “What’s a good flavor and what’s no longer a good flavor?” Instead of freaking out that their flavors are no longer successful, they celebrate them and give them a burial. I love that. They even have a headstone or whatever on their website. They show this flavor was live from this year to this year. They celebrate their success and then they move on.

An interesting story is VanMoof. They make these bikes and they would send them in packages in the mail, through UPS or whatever they would send. A lot of them were ending up broken, and they kept trying to fix these bikes and this issue with the packaging. They didn’t want to spend a lot more money because if you make the package twice the size, you get a lot more expenses. They are trying to figure out how to do this to make their bikes not break and yet not go over on the spending.

What they have looked at was the type of box they were using. They have noticed it was very similar to a flat-screen television box. They looked into how many flat screens broke and they weren’t breaking. The only real difference was the flat screens had a picture of a flat screen on the box. They thought, “Let’s draw a picture of a flat-screen, a little bit of extra ink and see what happens.” It was a dramatic difference in the amount of damaged bicycle. It’s thinking outside the box.

Sometimes it’s just asking questions. Disney did a lot of that. They did some great questioning to find out what was happening with their turnover. The laundry division of Disney as glamorous as it sounds is not. They were losing a lot of people that didn’t love working there and they couldn’t figure out why. They put out a questionnaire to their employees and said, “How can we make your job better?” They didn’t expect to get things back that they could do anything about but they did, they’ve got back great things. They’ve got back things like, “Put an air vent over my workspace or make my table adjustable when I’m folding things that work for my height.” Those are things like, “We can fix that,” and they did.

Going to the horse’s mouth, the employee and say, “How can we make this better,” was huge for them. Sometimes it’s not just an employee, sometimes it’s leaders. In the book, Cracking the Curiosity Code, I gave a story about Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. They were having a lot of patients that were dying when they were being transferred from one unit to the other.

TTL 874 | Being The Sidekick
Cracking The Curiosity Code: The Key To Unlocking Human Potential

Some physicians were watching a Formula 1 race car event one night and were impressed by how quickly that Formula 1 pit crew would take the car apart and put it back together in seven seconds. They are looking at this going, “They did that with no problems and we can’t transfer people from here to here.” They thought, “Why don’t we have these guys come in, this Ferrari team, and they can show us any improvements that we could make.” They did get some great ideas, which reduce their errors by more than 50%.

We think inside of our cubicle and inside of our silos but sometimes we need to think outside of even our industry because that can be important. Some of the greatest ideas are from that. I gave you some examples. We know we came up with Velcro from a Swiss engineer hunting with his dog and came back with burrs in his fur. He’s like, “What are these things? Why are they sticking?” What he did was he stuck it under the light to look at it and he saw the way it hooked together and he thought, “Why don’t we try this?” In 1998, they made something like $93 million in Velcro and it was sold in 40 countries. It did amazingly well.

You have to build a culture of learning. To do that, it’s important to look at some companies that do a great job of it. I know a top company I work with that does that is Novartis. Novartis does a great job because curiosity is part of their core cultural value. They encourage employees to spend 100 hours a year on employer-paid education to broaden their interests.

They do everything from paying for them to watch videos, to having them perform in mini TED events, and having employees be the actual speakers, things like that. It’s cool how much they do this. They have the whole month of September as their curiosity month and I’m one of the speakers for them. I know how much time and effort they put into this.

If you look at how much everybody talks about how they liked working at the company, 90% of employees surveyed approved the CEO. Think of how often you see that. That’s a huge thing. I know they are doing some ongoing research with me with curiosity. I’m excited about that. One of their employees is writing her Doctoral dissertation and we are looking at the curiosity, how it compares to if you intervene and give them some information about things that are holding them back. I’m anxious to share that information when it comes out because I did a lot of research for my talks and my book, Cracking the Curiosity Code and I looked at so much that’s out there.

We know that there are some great TED Talks from Daniel Pink who wrote Drive. What a great book. Simon Sinek’s, Find Your Why and all the stuff that he’s talking about. Carol Dweck’s book Mindset. All those are huge. I started to look at this curiosity thing. It’s the Max Planck Institute that coined the term curiosity gene because it’s in people and animals. It creates dopamine and it makes us feel good. If you are a bird, just flying around a bush and run out of berries, you are going to die if you don’t have the curiosity to go look at another bush.

As I was researching for the book, I wanted to write about curiosity but I’m like, “Where is the assessment that tells you what stops it?” I’m like, “There isn’t one.” That surprised me because the assessments tell you if you were curious or not. That’s all well and good because you do want to know if somebody is highly curious or not. The big five factors will tell you if you are open to experience and things like that but I want to know what stops it. Nobody had studied that so I did. I want to know what holds us back and I found out what it is. It is FATE, which stands for Fear, Assumptions, Technology and Environment.

I want to talk about these separately because fear is about failure, fear of embarrassment and loss of control. Nobody wants to feel like they said something stupid in a meeting. We all want to feel like we are all prepared. We are all in the meeting and we are thinking, “I want to ask that but I don’t want to look dumb.” You lean next to Joe, “Joe, why don’t you ask?” Joe should look dumb. You don’t want to look dumb. That’s a huge problem in companies. You get a lot of yes-men and yes-women because nobody wants to shake up things or look like they are trying to confront their leaders. Leaders who haven’t modeled the value of curiosity will come across that way.

I have had leaders look at me and say things like I had one guy who asked me to do something. I said, “I would be happy to do it. I have never had to, how do I do that?” He looked at me with disgust and said, “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.” What does that make you feel? First of all, it tells you, “You are an idiot, you should know this. You should lie and pretend you know things.”

We get a lot of leaders who will say, “Don’t come to me with problems unless you have solutions.” That sounded good at the beginning because it sounded like we were going to get rid of these whiners and complainers that didn’t have any ideas but a lot of people don’t know how to solve the problem. If we say that, then we are saying we don’t want to know about problems. That’s a huge issue.

The assumptions that we make, that’s that voice in our head that tells us we are not going to be interested, apathetic or it’s unnecessary, “The last time I did that, they gave me more work.” We all have that voice that talks us out of stuff. Sometimes I will hold up a bottle of water in the talk that I’m giving and ask, “How heavy is this?” They will say 6 ounces, 8 ounces or whatever. I will say, “It doesn’t matter. What matters is how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it doesn’t bother me, my arm is fine. If I hold it for an hour, my arm gets tired. After a day, my arm feels paralyzed.” That’s how our assumptions are or the voice in our head. It’s a fleeting thought, no big deal. We get past it. After an hour, we might hold on to it a little more. After a day, it starts to stay with us.

We have to recognize that we might be telling ourselves all these things we could maybe be interested in or maybe somebody would help us learn but we talk ourselves out of it. Assumptions are a big thing. What I found interesting was technology was also a big factor. Curiosity is impacted by the over and under-utilization of technology. It can either do it for you or you are not trained in it or you are overwhelmed by it. Some people had great experiences in their childhood where they had a lot of foundational learning and technology.

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Steve Wozniak is one, I love his book, iWoz. He talks about his dad telling him how to connect gadgets. He would come back with all these wires and get things from work and show him how the electronics should be connected, why this wire was necessary and how it brought electricity. A lot of us don’t have that experience. A lot of us might be the greatest mathematicians in the world but if somebody just threw us a calculator or Siri did it for you, you are not ever going to have the foundation behind it.

There’s got to be times where we have high foundation days where we build without technology and we learned behind it, and then there’s got to be days where we take advantage of it and learn how can we use it, and not become overwhelmed by it. The environment is a big one for a lot of people because it’s everybody from your teachers, family, friends, social media, leaders, peers, past leaders, current leaders and everybody you have ever worked with. We know that curiosity can be influenced by everybody we are around.

The numbers I gave earlier about how it peaks about age five with curiosity and then it tanks after that, a lot of that could be going into school and the teachers don’t have time because they are teaching to the test. They’ve got many students in class and they can’t answer why all the time. Our siblings can be brutal. If you do something that they don’t think is cool, you can take the wrath from that. It’s challenging to look at what has impacted us.

That’s one of the reasons why my research was interesting to me because I looked at these four factors of Fear, Assumptions, Technology and Environment, FATE. Those were the inhibitors for the Curiosity Code Index. They were pretty evenly matched. Assumptions and the environment were higher than technology maybe but then you can have an overlap. Fear from technology, for example. It was fascinating to do the research. I studied thousands of people for years to see what inhibited them.

I started by putting a thread in LinkedIn and asking people, and then I thought, “I’ve got interested in that.” I hired people to do all this factor analysis and ended up doing my research because a lot of the research kept coming back in the same fashion of trying to find out if you are curious or not. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to find out what did inhibit us.

It was interesting to look at the difference between men and women. Men were less impacted by fear than women but they were more impacted by that voice in their heads. They were equal to women in technology but then maybe more impacted by their environment. These results are what I have seen. I would like to see more research done.

It is interesting to take a look at how these different factors impact us. What I do is train people. First of all, they take the Curiosity Code Index. I either go do the training at companies myself or I train consultants to give it, or I train HR professionals to give it. If those people get certified, they get five hours of SHRM recertification credit.

There are a lot of different versions of training that I offer. What’s interesting is when they go through the training class, the employees, when they are training about this, they get to find out their results from the CCI. It’s like taking a Myers-Briggs, a DiSC or something. It takes ten minutes and you get the big report back, a PDF, within a few minutes of taking it. It’s simple.

They get to get their results and then they go through this personal SWOT analysis, which is cool because they look at ways to create SMART goals, measurable goals, those kinds of things to overcome some of these areas that are inhibiting them. Not only do they do that but then we do a similar thing for the corporation as a whole back to how they did it in Disney. You go to the horse’s mouth, to the employees and say, “How can we fix these things within the company? How can we help you become more curious?”

If there are issues with innovation, engagement, whatever the company issues are, the training classes are a great starting place to go to the employees and say, “How can we make you more curious so we can have this end product? How can we get cake?” You find out and the trainers go back to leaders with this great report, “This is what employees would like to do to help them improve so that we can all improve and make more money.”

It’s important in the future of companies that people have to try it, explore, poke at it and question it. It’s a huge thing that you need to ask yourself about, “How can I be vulnerable and allow this culture of learning? Maybe I don’t have all the answers.” Think about what are you doing to foster curiosity. What action plans do you have? How do you do this in this tumultuous time? Thinking about this, it’s challenging for a lot of people.

I have created a free course and a lot of people can get a lot of value out of it if they are interested in taking it. If you go to DrDianeHamilton.com and scroll down to the bottom, it offers a free course. If you sign up, it’s a simple thing. They send it right to you and you can learn a lot more about curiosity, the factors and see lots of videos from the talks I have given. Some of the stuff I have talked about here is in there. A lot of the chapters from the book are in there. It’s a good foundational way to learn more about curiosity. I wanted to give you that information and I hope you check out the website and CuriosityCode.com.

I would like to thank Dan for being my guest. We get many great guests on this show. If you have missed any past episodes and if you want more information about curiosity, it’s there at DrDianeHamilton.com and CuriosityCode.com. I hope you enjoyed the show and I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Daniel T. Rogers

TTL 874 | Being The SidekickDaniel T. Rogers is the Founder of Point to Point Transportation (P2P) which was an INC 5000 participant seven years in a row. His recent venture is Sales Sidekick, which involves the systemization of intentional design and how to share it with other viable businesses. Daniel works with businesses where they find their number one obstacle is sales and he transforms that obstacle into their greatest asset.

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