KC entrepreneur, author Kander teaches success through curiosity

Diana Kander used pizza and planking as tools for teaching work optimization in a webinar Thursday.

Kander shared lessons from her latest book, “The Curiosity Muscle,” which is set to be released later this month. Kander said she selected the title to convey that the weight of expertise can make entrepreneurs lose their impulse to seek out answers and innovation.

The book, which Kander co-authored with Andy Fromm, chairman and CEO of Service Management Group, uses a fictional story set in a gym franchise to teach lessons in curiosity.

An entrepreneur and author based in Kansas City, Kander works at consulting company Maddock Douglas, where she serves as director of innovation culture and habits.

Pizza

Some companies can still feel like startups at 20 or 30 years old, Kander said, if their curiosity stays piqued.

She said businesses tend to tell themselves, “we know what the customers want.” But that can be a perilous assumption.

“Facts about your customers and their worldview can change overnight,” Kander said. “And the only way to know when that change happens is to always be asking.”

Kander used Domino’s Pizza as an example. Around the Great Recession, the company’s stock plummeted to under $4 per share. Today, it’s worth almost $280 per share, even though Domino’s still sells pizza. The restaurant chain has made leaps and bounds through incremental innovation, she said.

Planking

Kander wanted to challenge herself to a goal she’d set for the characters in her book: hold a plank pose for 10 minutes. In the first phase of her challenge, Kander tried her best and was eventually able to plank for three minutes, but then her progress plateaued.

Kander said many people take on mammoth goals with the same straightforward approach she tried — just resolving to do their best. With the inevitability of blind spots, though, this strategy is limited, Kander said.

Involving other people who can offer insight is key, Kander said. She began researching, and found record plank sessions of more than eight hours. She learned from the record holders’ exercise routines, training new muscle groups, and in about two weeks she doubled her plank time. Eventually she exceeded her goal by a minute and a half.

“Each of us has blind spots that are slowing us down,” Kander said. “If you just take the time to involve the right people … you will be able to exponentially accelerate whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish.”


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