The diet info of exponential curiosity


In an episode of Mad Men, Don Draper, creative director of advertising firm Sterling Cooper, introduces a new campaign idea to a Heinz marketing director. Showing a large picture of simple fries without ketchup, he explains, “It’s clean, it’s simple, and it’s temptingly incomplete. What is missing? One: Pass the Heinz. ”(He then puts a transparent film over the picture that says“ pass the Heinz ”.)

The Heinz team wanted to see their product in the ad. Said Draper, “The greatest thing you have at work is not the picture you take or the picture you paint; it is the consumer’s imagination. They don’t have a budget, they don’t have a time limit and when you get into this area your ad can run all day. ”While the fictional Heinz executives weren’t impressed, the real Heinz team eventually turned Drapers Pitch into real ads.

Draper’s response to the Heinz team is perhaps the best explanation for curiosity. It exists in people’s minds with no time limit and no limits. It is always on. The best intangible asset a company could have is curious, imaginative executives.

It’s easy to forget that Walt Disney was fired from his job at a newspaper for lack of imagination. Of course, he then used his imagination to build “the happiest place in the world”.

Curiosity is also the key to understanding past events and building our future.


There are five elements of exponential curiosity. Looking at it like a nutrition label, if you add up each of the five elements, you get 150% of your daily curiosity value. Here is the composition.

• So what? (Question everything): 35%

In an article on this page, the author questions what otherwise silent electric cars should sound and offers the opportunity to redefine the sound of cars.

Too often, legacy thinking prevents companies from transforming. And legacy thinking is not just an internal problem – it arises from deeply ingrained industry beliefs or societal norms.

• What’s this? (Intentional ignorance): 25%

At the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, President Clinton spoke about a debate he had had with President Bush about the health system, and particularly the German health system. Clinton says Bush won the dispute despite admittedly knowing nothing about the German health system.

Executives have a wealth of access to information, sources, and experts to share their opinions. But the disarming openness of not knowing everything encourages open investigation. It also provides an opportunity to involve others in the brainstorming process.

• Who cares? (Try it out): 30%

In this fast-paced, platform-powered digital world, most of the services you use are an algorithm at the end of the day. This environment enables executives and companies to fail really quickly. It also helps them to think outside the box across industries or customer segments. In Southeast Asia, for example, large ridesharing services have moved into food delivery and then banking and entertainment streaming services to achieve “superapp supremacy”.

• Who are you? (Reference): 40%

Do you remember the very first time Dr. Watson met Sherlock Holmes? Holmes disrespectfully greets Watson and then begins to analyze him. This is what disrespect is about. It’s not disrespect – it’s a relentless focus on purpose and how everyone fits in.

Organizations struggle with the conflict between good ideas and personality politics. Executives with exponential curiosity stay purpose focused and ignore the politics of personalities.

• Is that really you? (Humor): 20%

Even polarizing characters like Elon Musk have moments that show humor, be it his Tesla shorts, the flamethrower, Tesla’s quiet electric leaf blower, or the Baby Shark tweet that sparked a market surge.

Exponential curiosity could lead to a rabbit hole of self-centered ideas. But a self-deprecating, edgy sense of humor can help you stay balanced as you strive for greatness.


I believe it is, but first you have to weed out unimaginative leaders at the top. They pose the greatest risk to your company’s future. The fact is, companies don’t change because they have a big idea. They transform because the curiosity of their people and their customers gives them a great idea. When your customers are more curious about the future of their world than your executives, you know you have a problem.

I help CEOs and companies be on the customer’s speed | Global Director, Caltech Exec. Education | Managing Partner, The Preparation Co.