Curiosity, Imagination & Passion – Business Owner Focuses!

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It is said, “answers don’t change the world, questions do”.

Curiosity, imagination and passion are three of hundreds of identified personality traits. All three:

  1. are increasingly important in the contexts of the ongoing success of individual businesses and related professional advisory services.
  2. with various levels of intensity – inspire questions, and hence in a business context enable individuals to better manage complexity, identify problems, find solutions, spawn new and improved results and contribute to problem identification and resolution.

Intellectual quotient and emotional quotient are increasingly things discussed in the context of business strategy, management and transition. Less frequently talked about are a person’s curiosity quotient, imagination quotient, and business passion quotient. But readers may hear more about these and other personality traits going forward – and may benefit from focusing on those three personality traits when assessing business owners, managers, employees and addressing business opportunities and challenges.

The mythical Sherlock Holmes had a passion for solving complex crimes, and a curiosity and an imagination that enabled him to do that. This article highlights the importance of curiosity, imagination and passion in the context of business enterprise success and successful transition.

Curiosity, imagination and passion: what are they?

Curiosity refers to having or showing an interest in learning things – or stated differently, the desire to learn or know as much as one can about something. Curiosity manifests itself in verbal inquiry, written inquiry, examination, investigation and research. Importantly, curiosity is an important factor in creativity.

Imagination refers to the ability to generate new ideas and images from prior knowledge or sensual (heard, seen, touched) experiences. Imagination is fundamental to problem solving through the integration of learning and experience.

Passion – an enthusiasm or desire for something – is an intense emotion broadly defined to be a very strong feeling toward an objective, a thing, or a person. In the context of this commentary passion means ‘personal passion for the success of the business that is owned by, or employs, that person’.

Applied in combination curiosity, imagination and passion result in a powerful tool in the contexts of:

  1. identifying and solving complex problems.
  2. promoting improvement in business, scientific advances, and many other areas.

Curiosity Quotient (CQ) and Passion Quotient (PQ) are phrases used to refer to the degree or amount of each of those qualities viewed individually. No one seems to have yet linked the words imagination and quotient, as in Imagination Quotient. Perhaps this is because there would then be confusion over which IQ one was discussing.

Curiosity, passion and Albert Einstein

A number of quotes referable to curiosity and passion are attributed to Albert Einstein. Perhaps the best known of these is “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious”. If Einstein deemed curiosity and passion toward his work to be important to his accomplishments, it seems a small step to suggest curiosity and passion for work ought to be viewed as important criteria when owning, hiring and managing in a business environment.

Curiosity, intelligence and passion in the work place

In the articles referenced at the end of this commentary there are discussions of the high curiosity levels of Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Steve Jobs (Apple). Those articles also in summary say:

  1. Curiosity:
  • is the genesis of every great idea, invention and new business.
  • and creativity are Siamese twins, as are curiosity and entrepreneurship.
  • is very valuable in the context of early stage problem solving.
  • leads to identification of opportunities, better trend analysis and problems/challenges identification.
  • is a trait that can be developed and improved upon – presumably through discussion that focuses on its importance and go-forward management expectations.
  1. Evidence suggests:
  • one’s curiosity quotient is just as important as one’s intelligence and emotional quotients when managing complexity.
  • curiosity is a strong predictor of a person’s ability to creatively solve problems in the workplace.
  1. Business curiosity:
  • means being open to new experiences.
  • is the skill of looking at a business differently and uncovering ideas and opportunities that disrupt old thinking, processes and practices.
  • starts with ‘deep thinking’.
  • requires continually asking ‘why’.
  • being dissatisfied with superficial answers.
  • being interested in the skills and goals of team members.
  1. Employers looking to hire creative problem-solvers should consider candidates with strong curiosity traits.
  2. Greater rewards are going to the intellectually curious as industries become more complex, competitive and knowledge intensive.

Remote workers

An issue not addressed in the referenced articles has to do with remote workers.

Remote work, also called telework or telecommuting – with somewhat different meanings or emphasis – is a growing trend. Remote work results in a business employee or consultant to a business working from his or her home for the majority of their time. Remote work typically occurs in a less- or non-supervised work environment. This where worker inefficiencies may result.

Aside from what may prove to be remote work inefficiencies in any given business, one might conclude that business curiosity, imagination and passion for business all might suffer in a remote work environment. This where curiosity, imagination and business passion might be expected to better feed from one another where workers are in the same physical environment, have more face-to-face meetings, more face-to-face social gatherings, and so on.

I found nothing in the literature when generating this commentary that spoke to remote workers in the context of these three personality traits and the business benefits that might be lost as a result of remote work.

Professional advisors

Professional advisors are discipline specific. Some disciplines lend themselves more to curiosity than others. But no disciplines are distinguished by differences in imagination or passion for assisting clients in helping them achieve their goals.

That said professional advisors typically have more than one client. This where for many reasons – including comparative annual fees generated, differing personal relationships, different knowledge base referable to different clients, etc. – each client may be of greater or lesser importance to an given professional advisor.

Again, I found nothing in the literature I reviewed when generating this commentary that spoke to differences among professional advisors in the contexts of more than less curious, imaginative, and passionate about the well-being of their clients.

Conclusions: things to think hard about

I suggest business owners and their advisors consider the following.

  1. It is easy to argue that curiosity, imagination and passion for one’s business has never been more important than it currently is in our increasingly complex and fast-moving world, country-specific and region-specific economic and business environments.
  2. Focusing on individual business owner, manager and employees in the contexts of their respective curiosity quotients, imagination quotients, and business passion quotients where applicable when:
  • hiring them.
  • completing performance reviews.
  • retaining them.
  • negotiating annual remuneration with them.
  1. I also suggest business owners assess each of the professional advisors they engage, and satisfy each passes muster in the contexts of curiosity quotients, imagination quotients, and business passion quotients.

Suggested reading

  1. Curiosity can predict employees’ ability to creatively solve problems, research shows, Oregon State University, November 17, 2016.
  2. Curiosity Is as Important as Intelligence, Harvard Business Review, August 27, 2014
  3. Leadership and the curiosity quotient, Management.Issues, April 16, 2015
  4. Why Curiosity for Entrepreneurs, 10 Minute Biz Tools.
  5. Seek and you will find: why curiosity is key to personal and national success, June 7, 2015, The Guardian.

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Ian R. Campbell FCPA FCBV

Ian R. Campbell is a Canadian business valuation and transition expert. He is the author of several Business Valuation texts and of 50 Hurdles: Business Transition Simplified. The Canadian Institute of Chartered Business Valuators recognizes his contribution to the Canadian Business Valuation Profession through the annual The Ian R. Campbell Research Initiative.

He writes The Business Transition and Valuation Review newsletter for business owners and their advisors.

You can reach him by email at, or by telephone at 905 274 0610.