This week I exercised my curiosity by immersing myself in Sydney’s coffee culture. In the process, I downed five litres of espresso, met a stack of office workers and now face caffeine withdrawal symptoms.
I already knew that small independent cafés rely on strong coffee sales and so I turned to them for fresh insights on getting and holding customer attention. I hoped my immersion would spark ideas for a similar problem I’m exploring in another industry.
Curiosity is to creativity and innovation what a hand is to a glove. When we’re curious, we push ourselves to look beyond the surface or face value of people, places and things and see them in a new way.
This sparks new and perhaps even disruptive ideas which inspires innovation.
A great question to stimulate curiosity is: “Why?” Just remember to ask it at the right time and using the right tone or you may be given the cold shoulder!
My coffee immersion
I had pre-selected a range of boutique-size cafés for my experiment, including one that was just a hole in the wall.
After asking their customers lots of questions, I gathered my insights on the pulling power of the most popular cafés:
Personal touches count
Coffee customers were delighted by personal touches: a chocolate freckle on the side, birthday discounts or espresso served by an Italian speaking barista.
Personality is key
The biggest café personalities were a drawcard. Some customers returned to their fave place simply because they left in a better frame of mind.
Faster is better
The faster those hot coffees could be dispatched, the better.
After deeper questioning, I also uncovered these findings:
- It wasn’t always about the coffee, but it helps. Customers often returned to a place because it gave them a great excuse to leave the office.
- It was taboo for people waiting in line to engage with each other. In general, the ‘line waiters’ said they didn’t want to appear “weird” by talking to strangers, even if they recognised their faces.
My curiosity led to a gem of an idea on engaging people that I’m now applying to the consulting sector.
- How has being curious helped you problem solve?