How to always stay curious

To spot consumer trends and understand what’s going on in people’s lives, we have to stay curious. How do we do that so we know what’s affecting people, what’s driving their conclusions, and what’s prompting buying decisions?

This article discusses how to stay curious, how that mindset helps us in human insights, and how we can measure that it’s working.

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What does it mean to stay curious?

You are staying curious means that we want to learn new things. We have questions about what we are seeing in the world. Why is this happening? What made you do that? Why did you spend your money here and not there?

To stay curious means that we want to understand the world around us and how our company fits into the lives of our consumers.

"As I stay curious personally, it's not just about learning for learning's sake. I see what's interesting to me at the moment."

How important is curiosity to understand customers?

How can we uncover new human insights when we aren’t curious about people? Sure, a hypothesis is appropriate, but we need to keep an open mind, said Meghan Lacy, director of enterprise expansion at Suzy, on “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.”

"We should allow the data to tell us what stands out and what to look for."

“If you are doing the analysis properly, look through without your own bias and see what the data is telling you,” said Meghan. “Those data points that stand out that are unexpected or maybe challenge your original thought when you were going into the research tend to unravel and drill down into those interesting insights that drive the story.”

Read next: Understanding customer journey mapping better

Trying to stay curious is especially important due to the current environment we are in.

Jorge Calvachi, a global thought leader, director of insights at La-Z-Boy, and member of the Voxpopme advisory board, calls describes the environment as VUCA, an acronym that stands for:

  • Volatility
  • Uncertainty
  • Complexity
  • Ambiguity

“We are living in this VUCA world right now and companies are starting to figure out that they don’t just have to understand the consumer, but also  the marketplace,” Jorge said on “Reel Talk.” “Many companies don’t know how to do that.”

To do that, he said, focus on foresight and agility, which means how fast you can respond to these changes. Of course, it does start and continue with being curious.

Read next: What are actionable insights anyway?

Steps to stay curious

“It comes down to exposing yourself to people who think and approach problems differently than you do,” Meghan said. “And approaching those conversations with a truly open mind.”

Staying curious is a mindset:

  • Seek out new information
  • Ask questions
  • Follow up with clarifying questions
  • Listen openly
  • Withhold judgment
  • Think about what you saw or heard
  • Was there something surprising?
  • What does it mean?

Consider where you want to dig deeper, learn more, or even clarify with follow-up questions.

And look at a variety of sources, Meghan said.

“So you are not hearing from the same people repeatedly,” she said. “For example, I try to read different newsletters and listen to different podcasts. In terms of survey design, it’s also about thinking about the audiences you want to hear from. So you can see differences in opinions.”

Read next: How to ask inclusive demographic questions in your market research

Listen, and really understanding can also close the empathy gap that has been seen in some relationships, said Jenn Vogel, SVP of marketing at Voxpopme and host of “Reel Talk.”

“How can we better serve our target audience and the people we care about most?” said Jenn. “I love that observational curiosity.”

"Really hear and try to empathize with what you are trying to learn."

At the same time, it’s undoubtedly great when somebody keeps telling you your product has been their favorite over several years. But, when something changes, we want to know what changed and why. Curiosity can help us here.

Talking to consumers

Talking to consumers is an important piece of being curious. How else will we get answers if we don’t?

“Talking to consumers is critical,” said Meghan. “Having consumers guide the conversations and asking questions about a given topic. That diversity of thought and speaking to different consumers and taking yourself out of your own inherent biases.”

Indeed, there’s a structure to any research. These questions need to be asked, for example. But be open to asking follow-up questions or circling back with a respondent to gain more insights into answers.

Curiosity can lead to next steps in research. For example, we usually include a next steps section in the ongoing consumer studies that we publish. So here’s what we learned and what we can dig deeper into next.

For example, in this article on eating cereal with orange juice – instead of milk – the recommendation of the next steps was to ask consumers to actually try the new Tropicana cereal with orange juice and give their feedback. The study provided a good overview of how consumers feel about the concept, but many of them hadn’t tried the new product.

The mindset to stay curious

Meghan said people need to have a flexible mindset to stay curious.

“You have to approach things with an open mind,” she said. “Approaching with no judgment and listening first and then pulling out key themes is critical to staying curious.”

To have that mindset, let go of your biases and experiences.

Moments of tension can come up when the mind wanders with judgment: “I don’t know about that,” said Meghan.

Instead of only judging or only disagreeing, dig deeper. Ask more questions.

“Try to understand what is driving those behaviors and attitudes in the first place,” Meghan said.

This can be hard because, at times, people look for agreement. Oh, yes, I agree with that. But it might not necessarily be about agreeing with a statement. Instead, it’s about hearing the point of view and then translating it into what it means to the business.

Read next: Trendspotting: Seeing and understanding trends with consumer insights

How do we know what to be curious about?

There are so many things that could be researched. But, we only have a certain amount of time, budget, and resources available. So we have to make choices.

It comes back to what the consumer or your client is doing. What are their needs, and how can we understand them better? It starts with a consumer-first mindset that empowers staff to listen and prioritizes the most significant impact on the consumer and the company.

“Let the consumer lead you,” Meghan said. “Sometime, you’ll go, ‘oh, that was unexpected.'”

"That's one of the most exiting for me when you get a result that you weren't expecting."

Sometimes, specific trends start dominating the headlines, and brands should look into any impact on their consumer base. For example, Meghan mentioned the Metaverse. Is that something brands have to worry about? Having curious employees and asking that question early can help a brand stay ahead.

In a consumer study in the Voxpopme Market Research Online Community, we found that consumers are evenly split on the Metaverse. Fifty-three percent said it matters for brands to be in the Metaverse, with 47 percent saying it does not matter.

“There’s no right or wrong in what you should be curious about,” Meghan said. “It’s about what strikes your interest, and then what do I want to learn more about?”

"What captures my attention and then I go down that rabbit hole a little bit."

From a research perspective, Meghan said that curiosity could be measured in “a-ha” moments. And ultimately, a-ha moments get us insights that we didn’t know about until this point. Those insights can then help us make intelligent business decisions.

“Those a-ha moments can move the business differently,” Meghan said. “That could include product offerings or service offerings. If you have success pulling something like that off, the curiosity has paid off.”

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What’s a question you’d like to ask consumers?