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What Ever Happened to Intellectual Curiosity, Critical Thinking, and Perspective Taking

By Hank Barnes | October 12, 2021 | 2 Comments

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There is a great deal of frustration in the B2B world today.   In the face of massive change, there is a awful lot of clinging to old practices that once worked; of siloed “protect our organizational turf” behaviors; and a general reluctance to give change a try–even when that is what we ask our customers to do so every day.

Given this, a number of professional colleagues and I decided to amplify these issues.   This week, I’ll be sharing a number of blog posts from a variety of people, sharing pet peeves in B2B that we find frustrating.   All of these peeves should come with a dose or two of suggestions on how to change.

As I was thinking about where I would go with this, I went looking through my old posts.  Man, I have a lot of peeves:

In thinking about all of these, I think there is a theme that pulls everything together.  It is a multi-part theme, but they do connect.   My biggest pet peeve is that the B2B world has DEVOLVED to  a world where three things don’t seem to be valued anymore.

Source: Gartner, Inc.

The first two go hand in hand–intellectual curiosity and critical thinking.   The evidence, we get presented with facts and don’t take the time to think about the context of the fact or what the implications might be.  The growth of digital channels has caused a wide variety of stats that herald the death of sales.   It is easy to get on that bandwagon.   Don’t.   The context of buying; the situations your customers face; the stage of the market are just some of the factors that influence when sales is needed.  If you look at most established, high growth organizations, they are still making tremendous investments in sales.   On a related note, sales is relevant when critical thinking exists.  Blind allegiance to scripts and standard plays don’t fly with many customers.   Instead, you need to think.  About their situation, about their org’s psychographics, about their existing options, and more.  Then you can adapt to make a real connection to them.

When new ideas are introduced, be willing to invest a little time in understanding them–through curiosity and critical thinking.  You might find yourself becoming part of the team that makes it work and drives a huge impact vs. a naysayer who rejects the idea without every really putting energy into understanding why they did.

And that leads to the related area.  Perspective taking, or being more empathetic.  Whether internally or externally, taking a bit of time to think about where they other party is coming from and what they may be dealing with can make all the difference in the world.    Critical thinking works better with perspective taking.   Intellectual curiosity can be fueled by taking the perspective of others (e.g. “How would marketing view this”, “How would sales”, “How would our customers.”

These are fundamental areas that are required for peak performance, for effective collaboration, and for great experiences.

It is time to re-introduce, or revitalize, these in your organizations.   Its a question of culture and you can be the catalyst by (a) doing these things yourself and (b) activating these ideas in one on one discussions and group meetings.

We aren’t working assembly lines; we’re in a world of constant change.   The only way to make that work well is intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, and perspective taking.

Let’s make it happen.

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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  • Hank, regarding your biggest pet peeve, I actually see this as an untapped opportunity for brave tech marketers to move past the predictable and unimaginative product-centered narratives.

    When I think of just how easy it can be to stand out from the tech marketers that still produce mass-quantity of ‘speeds and feeds’ oriented messaging drivel, I remember what John Chambers said (back when we both worked at Cisco).

    Commercial Storytelling: Leading with Purposeful Narratives

    I welcome your thoughts. Why do so few companies dare to lead a movement in the marketplace, instead of a product category?

    What should a vendor CMO and CSO do to change mindsets?

    • Hank Barnes says:

      It starts with the CEO, without that, big, cross-departmental change is unlikely to stick (e.g. It becomes “that marketing story” vs. the company story). The reality is that its hard too. Not all customers are ready to be part of a movement. So, it takes bold leadership, focused execution, and proper patience…