In today’s world, if you’re not curious, you’re dead. If you’re not open to new ideas and aren’t able to change as rapidly as the world around you is changing, you will quickly become obsolete. And what is the one thing that enables one to adapt and apply… again and again.. to match the pace of change around us? Hunger to learn, driven by curiosity. And so, I would say that curiosity to learn through life is at the core of life itself!!
For the last couple of years, we’ve been going to the top 20 B-schools in the world to hire about 20 people into what we called the ‘Sales Development Program’. They then undergo the right kind of training to emerge as sales leaders for the organization. It’s an investment that’s paid off well and we hope to increase the number soon.
In all my interactions with this group and in reviews with the teams that hire them, the one thing that stands out is the hunger to learn in each of them. They are hungry, very passionate, very motivated to learn and eager to contribute. I’m no authority on the subject but to me that isn’t intuitive to some of the traits that often this generation of Millennials is accused of – narcissistic, privileged, arrogant and so on.
As I mentioned in a NY Times article on the same topic, this is true for people we hire (or seek to hire) across different roles and regions. We place a lot of importance on energy, passion to learn rather than ‘do you know this specific aspect of the business.’ Because if one is energetic and eager to learn – picking up specific skills is never a challenge. We look for people who have an open mind and are curious. Because if you are curious you ask questions. If you ask questions, you will get a set of answers. And if you are reasonably clever, you will process those answers and come up with a relevant solution.
In my experience, if you demonstrate a hunger to learn, a capability to learn and a desire to learn – you are going to be successful. And often, I think that is better than someone saying that I know that thing really well. Because the reality is that, what they know is going to be worthless a year later as it will all change. Then the real question is that are they going to learn the new thing, grab the new opportunity and make it work for them. Does one have the self-confidence to accept the fact that what they knew is no longer important and that they are ignorant about the new thing. And it is okay to be ignorant for a short while till one learns the new thing!
It doesn’t really matter whether we are recruiting in US, India or Japan. The fact that we are looking for qualities of energy, passion and curiosity has to be brought out in the interview process. We bring the cultural nuance at the forefront of the recruiting process. And typically people with these set of qualities usually stand out in all cultures and it’s easy to recognize them.
And I have had conversations with some of these people within one month of their joining. What they tell me is that the reason why they joined us is that they were looking for the kind of organization that feeds their hunger, that doesn’t curb curiosity, and that stretches and supports them to take on big challenges which you don’t find it easily. So then it’s a good match!