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Why Does It Matter to Stay Curious?

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We lead such immensely busy lives that reading and learning often appear quite the luxury. We do everything at a million miles an hour in a technology highway that pushed the need to achieve more and above all, achieve faster, further up on each and every one of our agendas.

Breaks are few and far between. When they happen they are precious moments when rightfully, we want to be with that and those that make us happy and furthering one’s knowledge on their respective domain doesn’t fall under any of those categories.

Nonetheless, pleasant or not, keeping ridiculously up-to-date is a sine-qua-non condition in most industries and in Financial Technology even more so to atone for its complexity.

Best cases and industry milestones

These days, most of everything is public knowledge but do bankers know what’s the latest, what’s top of the range, what is the golden standard today?

We get asked to include best cases in our workshop content all the time. Most of the time it’s because someone somewhere can recognise they don’t know a lot – enough?- and ask for it and sometimes it’s sadly only because they think it ought to exist in a the agenda so they demand it with no real interest in its content.

The motivation behind the interest is arguably irrelevant but we do wish we saw more genuine intellectual, probing curiosity to learn and create better in lieu of sheer banking-FOMO.

In fairness keeping a bank running and tending to the corporate jungle at the same time is no easy feat and the topics bankers should ruminate seem to multiply by the day so what reigns supreme is kinda-knowledge and very little in the way of curiosity when it comes to basic market research.

Chatbots – all bankers know they are all the rage and they remember reading some report somewhere on stats but how many can benchmark their technological value at the drop of a hat or even know who of their competitors are employing them and which one is the best one today?

Open banking – everyone -at long last!- understands what it involves but the state of readiness of the other banks and what creative business models they created around it? How many bankers know that?

Transactional data – there isn’t one bankers who doesn’t know it’s “the new gold” but what that really means, if there is any other bank that intelligently employs it for the good of the consumer, in what fashion and to what NPS – how many bankers can answer those basic questions?

Know your own

On a more granular level, every banker and associated contractor in the industry has brushed against a product over the past few years and has been associated – be it at arms’ length- with the making of either an app, a product line or at least a feature that eventually reached the consumer.

It would stand to reason that while they do not have the time and means -if we disregard the real culprit: lack of deep interest!- to canvas the industry in its entirety, they surely are subject matter experts in that one particular slice.

That they can tell you when it was first invented and deployed, its entire history in other implementations of other banks and quote all its decision milestones, the various incarnations and how the deliveries’ history went in their own bank. Not to mention know for a fact, what reception it got and what the North Star of said product, app or feature is.

Right? Wrong. Look around you, grab a banker and shake them for the past, present and future information on this one product – the one they are involved in the making of. Very little falls out of their pockets. Then ask yourself: of the consumer-reaching things you’ve been involved with how many were you able to go on and lecture on? How many have you come to know inside-out?

Part of the reason why this occurs is that there is a lot of dialogue that happens in bankers’ heads in what could be safely called “Assumptions-Land”.

Related: The Future of Work: the Machines and the Purposeful, Talented Humans

Related: When You Ask Your Company to Be Agile

The Knowledge Party

In 2015 – which at times seems to me to incidentally be the last time that anyone came up with anything earth shatteringly innovative in FinTech- a bank expressed to the company I was with at the time, that while they were desperately sad that none of the guys in their Digital team got approval to travel to Finovate from their Australian bank, they did the next best thing, commandeered a cozy bean-bagy room, ordered mountains of take-away and beer and did a Finovate demos viewing marathon party instead..

The same way some people would have done a binge-watching session amongst friends of a season of Doctor Who, or, a more appropriate comparison – Game of Thrones. Because they were fans. As were these bankers. Of new. Of the promise of technology. Of the amazing experiences it can create. Of the magic it could bring to the consumer of finance. Of FinTech.

Those bankers, wherever they are today, even if the only Finovate they had seen was that 2015 knowledge-party are guaranteed better off knowledge wise, than most of the report reading-and-writing consultants they employ to tell them what’s what.

And that type of information is not restricted or accessible only to the privileged. There’s no obvious reason why this hasn’t been common practice over the years in every bank.

More so, there’s no reason why  this hasn’t become mandatory fundamentals-building in every Innovation lab and incubator seeing how these are hundreds of people mandated with bringing something new to the consumer and they expect they are capable of doing so with no concern over what parts of the ocean have already been boiled.

This call for learning and intense curiosity is not for banking only, undoubtedly many other industries could stand to do the same, but in our case it’s as urgently and chiefly important as is finding one’s passion and building one’s purpose and if we collectively managed them all we could give the consumers the experiences they daren’t dream about.

First they assume most people do better than their own bank in terms of their proposition which is a presumption that, if left unchallenged, is very disquieting and paralysingly self-defeating. .

Then they also presume it would take superhuman efforts to prove or disprove their presumption and replace it with up-to-date knowledge be it only because they judge by the informational jungle that is out there.

Lastly,, a lot of times bankers presume “it doesn’t matter, even if I knew for sure where we stand I wouldn’t know what to do that is transformational with this knowledge and even if I tried no one would listen to me anyway”. This last presumption in this story is sadly painfully grounded in bitter experience.

Education versus Knowledge

Formal education can only take us so far when it comes to industries that depend on the diabolically fast pace of technology and despite universities all over desperately trying to match real life with the curriculum, they haven’t managed that and they likely never will as we have no reason to believe the target will stand still from hereon.

The body of what needs to be known to create meaningful experiences for the consumer is growing by the day, and the only way we can keep up with it, is to redefine the old and dusty concept of “continuous education” into an imperative across all levels of every organisation where it’s part and parcel of every employee’s routine and then encourage, celebrate and even demand it by including curiosity as a metric in a manner that challenges the concept of one’s education stopping at a point where their work life begins.

Learning works best when it comes from an internal impetus as opposed to an external mandate though and that is why we need bankers to intensely care to find out and discover on their own. To be inquisitive and curious, to probe and to dig, to seek to figure out and know.

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