Transcript of Flex Your Curiosity Muscle to Grow Your Business
John Jantsch: This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Gusto: modern, easy payroll, benefits for small businesses across the country. And because you’re a listener, you get three months free when you run your first payroll. Find out at gusto.com/tape.
John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Diana Kander. She is a keynote speaker, innovation coach, and co-author of the book The Curiosity Muscle: How Four Simple Questions Can Uncover Powerful Insights and Exponential Growth.
John Jantsch: So Diana, thanks for joining me.
Diana Kander: I’m so excited to be here John. Thank you so much.
John Jantsch: So I’ve been doing this show for about 13 years, hundreds and hundreds of episodes, and I do believe you are the first husband and wife team that I have now had on the show [crosstalk 00:01:04]. Your husband Jason was on a few months ago. So it’s a first.
Diana Kander: Well we like setting records. So on behalf of the Kander family, thank you so much for this honor.
John Jantsch: So the book, The Curiosity Muscle is written as a fable, a business fable about institutionalizing curiosity. So maybe set the plot up for us.
Diana Kander: Yeah, absolutely. I mean the plot is what happens to most companies once they experience success, is they get really comfortable, very complacent, and they lose their curiosity. They start thinking that they know their customers better than the customers know themselves.
Diana Kander: And what happens is you quickly lose touch with your customers and start becoming irrelevant. And this happens frequently with large organizations when they find out that it is much harder to stay at the top than it was to get there.
John Jantsch: And you wrap it around a fictional character. That’s-
Diana Kander: Yes. A gym franchise.
John Jantsch: … And so your previous book, I think you did the same thing. Maybe you don’t have a lot of experience to answer this question, but I was once asked to write a fable type of book on referrals. And I started the process, and I found it so much harder than just telling people what to do.
Diana Kander: Well that’s how I feel about non-fiction books John. So I started writing non-fiction books, and I’m like uh, I can’t really talk about my former clients and what they went through because I’ve signed all these non-disclosures. But if I write a fiction book I can talk about everybody and everything as long as it’s a fictional story.
John Jantsch: And wink, wink. The characters in this book do not represent anyone in real life, right?
Diana Kander: No. They’re an amalgam of lots and lots of companies that have gone through very, very similar experiences. In fact, Jim Collins wrote a amazing book called How the Mighty Fall, in which he describes the same process, but in a much more scientific way. And there’s a very similar kind of loop that companies that go out of business, and this is like the fictional version of that.
John Jantsch: A lot of my listeners are small business owners. And I’m going to tell you one of the biggest problems with owning a business is that nobody promotes you to that position. You pretty much decide I’m going to do this thing. And now everybody thinks you should have all the answers.
John Jantsch: And I think a lot of small business owners feel like they have to have all the answers, and that sort of leads to not only shutting off curiosity but a whole heck of a lot of stress. So how, as a small business owner, do I get over that idea of feeling like I have to have all the answers? Everybody’s looking to me.
Diana Kander: Well I feel like it’s no different than most people who get promoted to manager. They feel like they got promoted because they had the right answers, and so they have to keep generating them.
Diana Kander: So in both of those cases I will tell you that the most successful people ask much better questions than they give answers. And they know that curiosity is the secret to unlocking exponentially better answers than whatever their gut initially says.
John Jantsch: Yeah. As one of those small business owners, it took me a lot of years to learn that. I mean people would come to me and ask me, people who worked with me or were trying to do a project for me, would ask me a question. I felt like I had to tell them what to do.
John Jantsch: In fact, I felt like that’s what they wanted. And I later leaned that they actually didn’t want the answer. They wanted me to say what would you do?
Diana Kander: Right. No. I mean you can get so much further just by asking better questions, is one of my sayings, you know. If you’re unsatisfied with the results in any part of your life, what you need to do is ask better questions, and you can significantly change them.
John Jantsch: So let’s unpack the four questions. I’m going to go over them real fast, but I want to ask you questions specific to them.
John Jantsch: So they are: what are my blind spots, am I prioritizing, am I measuring the right thing, and how can you involve others to get what you want? So we’ll tackle each of those.
John Jantsch: The first one, what are my blind spots? It actually takes a degree of vulnerability to even admit that you have those.
Diana Kander: Absolutely. So most people think of their blind spots. They relate them to their weaknesses. And so they’re like well, I know what I don’t do well, and I’m terrible at showing up on time, or whatever.
Diana Kander: But blind spots are not your weaknesses. Blind spots are things that you think you’re doing well, but are actually impacting your work. And so whatever problem it is that you’re trying to solve, or if you’re trying to understand your customers better, you always have blind spots and what you think you know about them.
Diana Kander: So creating some kind of a process or systematizing staying in touch and understanding your customers, even as they evolve and change, that will help you not have blind spots that, if you don’t uncover them, you might get blindsided one day by your customers.
John Jantsch: It’s a terribly practical thing too. I mean how many people have created a product or a service and packaged it all up and went out to the market, and the market went I don’t need that. What were you thinking? And it’s like-
Diana Kander: The majority John.
John Jantsch: You’re right. Right.
Diana Kander: The majority of people.
John Jantsch: Yeah. And so, really great question. Am I prioritizing? Number two. And boy, this one is so hard because people will have that strategy meeting to come up with the 19 things they need to get done this quarter. And I think one of the best things that question probably begs is what should we not be doing?
Diana Kander: Yeah. I mean they never teach you want to not do as a manager, a small business owner. And you cannot be busy and curious at the same time. You cannot be busy and creative at the same time. You cannot be busy and innovate at the same time.
Diana Kander: And we, as a society, are busier than ever before, and we’re producing less than ever before.
John Jantsch: And I think one of the things about that idea of not focusing on am I prioritizing is you can make yourself busy. It’s really easy to make yourself busy.
Diana Kander: Super easy.
John Jantsch: Yeah. And so if you don’t take… I mean a couple of years ago I started the practice of taking two days a week where I just don’t do any appointments, no of these calls. They’re supposed to be my kind of focus time. And that made all the difference in the world in terms of actually getting real, important stuff done.
Diana Kander: Yeah. I think about my days as offense or defense. And defense is like when I’m answering email, when I’m doing things that other people have asked me to do. And that’s not when I’m creating valuable content, creating work for my clients.
Diana Kander: And that’s offense, right? Offense is what scores points. You’re not going to get to your goals on defense alone, by checking your email.
Diana Kander: So I always think about my days like, am I having the right proportion of offense to defense?
John Jantsch: Yeah, because let’s face it, defense pays less than minimum wage usually.
John Jantsch: So… I’m sorry for all the defensive people out there. It’s just the truth. Defense does not win championships in business.
Diana Kander: It does not score points. No.
John Jantsch: All right. So the third one, and I think people really struggle with this. Am I measuring the right thing? I mean how the hell do I know? There’s so many things I can measure. How do I know I’m figuring out the one that has impact?
Diana Kander: Well I think this is particularly integral to your licensees and people who do Duct Tape Marketing, and even small business owners. It’s so alluring to measure what are called vanity metrics. And these are numbers that make you feel good about the initiatives that you’re taking. Like how many visits to your website, how many people attended a conference, like numbers that can only go up.
Diana Kander: But they are not related to any actual substantive values for your company. So how do you measure numbers that can actually look bad for you? And to know whether or not you’re actually going in the right direction or whether you should change course.
John Jantsch: Well sometimes, though… And here’s what I struggle with: sometimes I find things that are kind of intangible to actually make… I mean they’re more the marker towards the fact that yeah, you’re making progress. And I know that sounds… I mean because it’s intangible. Right?
John Jantsch: You can’t really put a spreadsheet around how many smiles we got today as something goofy like that.
Diana Kander: Well I like to introduce two questions. I call these failure metrics. So everybody has success metrics for their projects. And those usually take a while to figure out, whether you’re going to be successful or not.
Diana Kander: The failure metrics you can figure out much sooner. And that is asking yourself how would I know if it’s not working and when would I know that? And in that case, you can measure the intangible.
Diana Kander: So if you have a speech that you’re giving, and everybody’s on their cell phones, how would you know if it’s not working? Well people aren’t requesting you to give other speeches. Or they’re just not paying attention to you during your speech.
Diana Kander: So failure metrics are those intangible things that you’re talking about. And you can find them much sooner than looking at your business at the end of the year and figuring out if you’ve hit the numbers.
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John Jantsch: Let’s talk about failure since you keep mentioning it.
Diana Kander: Yes.
John Jantsch: You know, it’s a hot topic right now in the startup world. And I’m sort of over it. I’m sort of sick of it, because I think a lot of people have used it as this fail-fast. Or figure out, don’t be afraid to fail. And I think that that’s sort of a cop-out. I’d like to turn it around and say figure out how to succeed.
John Jantsch: Obviously if something doesn’t work, it’s teaching you something. But I’m sort of tired of the word failure, so there. I think it’s overrated.
Diana Kander:[inaudible] that entrepreneurship and innovation. You know, all these words that get used. Look, I believe in the growth mindset, which has not yet been really corrupted. And that is, no matter where you are today, you could always be better. And you can’t be better without taking missteps.
Diana Kander: You know, if I meet somebody and then we’re talking about ice skating, and I say have you ever fallen while ice skating? And they say no, I’ve never fallen. It’s amazing. I’m really quite good. Then I can definitively say you are not good at ice skating if you’ve never fallen, right? Because you’ve been hanging onto the edge. You’re not really trying anything interesting.
Diana Kander: And that’s how I feel about failure or missteps. You have to have some things that don’t work out, that push you forward to learn better. But with that said, I believe in the concept of deliberate practice, which is not just failing for failure’s sake, but figuring out your blind spots and what you need to improve at in order to increase the results of what you’re working on.
John Jantsch: Yeah. I know it’s become sort of cliché to say, but I mean to me, there is no failure. It’s just a learning moment. For me, at least.
Diana Kander: That’s right.
John Jantsch: That’s just kind of a mindset, that I’m never going to stop doing what I’m doing. Just hopefully I’m taking in the feedback and using it to get better.
Diana Kander: Yeah, but that takes a really long time for people to grasp and feel that way. And I think that they’re never going to feel that way until they experience some success. And once you experience success in your life, you can always point to a pivotal failure in your life that created it or stems from it.
Diana Kander: So my first book was a very successful book, sold a lot of copies, and kicked off my speaking career. But I never would have started writing it if I didn’t have a startup that was going horrible. And I was so ashamed and embarrassed that I started journaling as a way to deal with my feelings around it.
Diana Kander: So I think every big success stems from some kind of failure.
John Jantsch: Yeah. And we’re just talking semantics at this point. It’s really more like what you do with it that really is the only thing that really matters.
John Jantsch: So I think we’re on question number four, we haven’t tackled yet. And this is actually my favorite, because on the surface it seems pretty simple. But I think it’s more complex than that. How can you involve others to get what you want?
John Jantsch: And what I meant by the more complexity, it’d be pretty easy to say yeah, be a team player. Give others credit. But I think where this question gets really hard is how can you get others to hold you accountable as a business owner. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges. I have nobody to hold me accountable, and that would be a great way to get other people involved in helping me get what I want.
Diana Kander: Yeah. So there’s two parts to this question. The first is exactly what you’re talking about. And that is there’s been research done that if you have a goal and you share that goal with somebody you care about, you are 65 percent likely to reach that goal, which is amazing. But if you setup a regular check-in with that person where you just tell them how it’s going and what you’re planning to do next, you are 95 percent likely to reach that goal.
Diana Kander: And that is the power of accountability, on being able to reach whatever crazy dreams you set out for yourself. So that’s kind of the first element.
Diana Kander: And the second element of it is, back to how everybody puts pressure on themselves to come up with the big ideas. Oftentimes when you involve other people in coming up with the ideas, they’re going to have way better ideas than you. And they’re going to feel an ownership stake in those ideas.
Diana Kander: So if you have a small retail location and you’re trying to figure out how to get customers through the door, rather than you yourself thinking about how to do it, have a meeting with your team. And just have them brainstorm. And sometimes they’ll come up with crazy ideas, and then they’ll work on their ideas in their off time, and feel really, that sense of ownership to execute on them, much more than if you had come up with an idea and put it on them.
John Jantsch: Yeah. And I think that over time particularly, people just stop coming up with ideas if they never get asked or they never get involved. And so it’s a vicious cycle. You kind of shut down the innovation that you could have.
Diana Kander: That’s right. And they’re closer to the customer, oftentimes, than you are. So they’re going to have much better insight into opportunities than you will.
John Jantsch: So, in addition to your writing and speaking, you’re a podcaster as well.
Diana Kander: Yes. I’m a brand new podcaster.
John Jantsch: So you were telling me, and again I’m not sure when people are listening to this, if you’ll have new shows that you’re publishing. But tell me the premise for the show. Because I think, in addition to being incredibly useful, I think it’s a rather intriguing idea of what you’re doing.
Diana Kander: So in the course of writing this book, The Curiosity Muscle, I gave myself a crazy, audacious goal. So one of the subplots was a character in the book was trying to a 10 minute plank. And I thought well I’ll try it. I’m not going to get it, but if I try it I can at least write about it in a much more realistic way.
Diana Kander: And at the time, I could do a one minute plank. So 10 minutes seemed completely ridiculous to me. And I started applying these things, these principles that I teach organizations, to myself. And in four and a half months of struggling with it, but sticking with it, I did an 11 and a half minute plank.
Diana Kander: And when I tasted that level of goal achievement, I was like oh my god, what can’t I do?
Diana Kander: So I sat down with a piece of paper and listed… Okay, here are all of the things that I want to fix about myself. I have confidence issues and I have anxiety that I struggle with. 49 different items of… horrible at making eye contact and terrible at taking compliments. Oh, my god, I have insecurities about being a mom. So everything I wanted to improve about myself as a professional.
Diana Kander: And then I use the podcast as a way to hold myself accountable to working on each of these things. So every week I talk to an expert who will help me uncover blind spots in those areas that I would never have guessed on my own, and try things that I never would have thought to try.
Diana Kander: And you know I’ve been having some very significant results.
John Jantsch: So in addition to being a podcast, it’s sort of a self-improvement project that you have somebody holding you accountable in some ways. I mean, because-
Diana Kander: That’s right.
John Jantsch: … you’re putting it out there to the world. So it’s awesome.
Diana Kander: I have this formula in my life, John, which is the scarier something is, the more people I need to hold me accountable to it, so the more I’ll broadcast it. So working on 49 different things is very scary for me and very vulnerable, so I just try to tell as many people as possible.
John Jantsch: So Diana, where can people find out more about you and your work and hopefully tune into the podcast?
Diana Kander: Yeah, they can find everything at dianakander.com. Links to books, speaking, and the podcast. And the podcast is called Professional AF, which just means really professional.
John Jantsch: So the AF means nothing, huh? Just-
Diana Kander: People ask me what it means, and it means really, really professional.
John Jantsch: … Awesome. And so that’s dianakander, E-R, .com. And we’ll have it in the show notes as well.
John Jantsch: So Diana, great book. The Curiosity Muscle. You have a t-shirt that I tell people all the time that curiosity is my super power. And I guess I need a t-shirt from you. But I’m not sure-
Diana Kander: I wanted to bring you one, but I only have them in women’s cut. So I can offer them to your daughters or your wife John. I don’t have a unisex version yet.
John Jantsch: … So I have a story, that it may or may not be true. I grew up with… I have seven brothers and two sisters. So 10 of us. And my mom used to tell a story, and like I said, I have no idea if it’s true or not. But when they would take us all somewhere, dad would say you watch the other nine and I’ll watch John. And that’s because I have a very strong curiosity muscle.
Diana Kander: Well I think that can only get you into trouble when you’re young, but get you into a lot of opportunities as an adult.
John Jantsch: I agree. I credit it with… The 30 year journey I’ve been on is just bouncing from one thing I’m curious about to another. So that’s why the title of this book intrigued me so.
Diana Kander: Thank you for being curious about the book and for inviting me on the show, and this is the most fast-paced interview I’ve ever done, but also the most exhilarating. So thank you so much.
John Jantsch: And we didn’t mention this, but you’re just down the street in Kansas City, Missouri. So it’s always fun to interview somebody in my home town, which I don’t get to do enough.
Diana Kander: I know. There’s a lot of us authors lurking around.
John Jantsch: I typically end this show, as some listeners will recall, saying I hope I bump into you soon out there on the road. And I’d say it’s probably more likely with you than many others.
John Jantsch: So thanks for joining us Diana, and again, I will end it as I always do. Hopefully I’ll see you somewhere out there on the road.
Diana Kander: Ditto John. Talk to you soon.