What's In Your Sandwich?

They say you can never trust a person who, when left in a room alone with a tea cosy, would not pop it on their head and see how it looks as a hat.

Here is a picture of a tea cosy for those of you who do not live in 1950 tea room England.

And here is a photo of me with a tea cosy on my head.

I know I am not on my own, but I still wanted to see what it looked like.

Curiosity – you see. It killed the cat and it defines George but it is a vital component of creativity.

What would these shoes look like with this dress? What would happen if we went the other way at this junction? Let’s just see what’s on at the other movie theatre instead?
All lead to different outcomes. These outcomes might be more interesting, they might not; but if you are not curious you will never know.

My Dad used to tell the story about a mate he worked with on the docks when he was a young man. Every day the man would open his sandwiches, lift a corner and with a disappointed sigh say “jam.” By Thursday the sigh was deeper and the disappointment greater. Jam… again. On Friday my Dad asked the jam man, “Why don’t you ask your Mum to give you something different?” The man looked at my Dad and told him, “I make the sandwiches myself.”

We can all laugh at that man. I mean imagine being so routine and formulaic, so obvious and so lazy. Imagine setting yourself up to be disappointed, to never be surprised or engaged. But when it comes to work are we just the same as that man? Do we do the same things in the same way, almost by rote? Do we slavishly follow the diary and the meeting room protocol and the agenda? Do we repeat patterns of behaviours that have worked well enough in the past? Do we replicate presentations and pitches and programmes for clients because they are no more curious than we are to see what it would be like if we tried it another way?

Curiosity is what keeps us fresh. It is asking the What If questions. It is turning things round another way and seeing what happens. It is taking the leap and asking someone new onto the team; someone who will hopefully think about things afresh with a curious mind on the problem.

This is not just about imagining great tactics for our clients, creativity is well rehearsed there; but also about changing the ways we work every day. The processes that we slavishly follow, the routines that that we never question… the jam in our everyday sandwiches.

Go on be curious. Mix it up, ask questions, check out possibilities. Pop a tea cosy on your head and see what it looks like. 

About Ruth Yearley

Ruth is a Partner and Director of Insight & Strategy in Ketchum's London office. She has over 20 years of marketing experience, from both a client and agency perspective. Ruth's specialism is facilitated sessions, featuring interrogative questioning, logical and strategic thinking and creative approaches, which can be used to focus team thinking and short circuit the developmental process.