How to build a dream team

One of the key attributes I look for in new staff is what drives me personally: curiosity. It’s a trait that you can rely on. Give me a minute to explain.

I often joke with my team that your optimum job ratio is 80% fun/good and 20% not fun/bad. When the ratio shifts closer to 50/50 then you need to ask yourself some tough questions. If it dips below 50/50 for an extended stretch of time then you need to re-evaluate or move on.

As a senior exec I think that 80/20 is a pragmatic yet optimistic equilibrium. There’s always administrative or bureaucratic responsibilities that aren’t exciting. I know that for some people those things are exciting—say for our accounting, legal and HR friends—but the 80/20 rule also applies to them in their own funny worlds.

I think that’s what we all want. Meaningful work that pays you well. Throw in a chance to learn and you’re set.

But the million-dollar question: is how do we stay in equilibrium? I realize that what we all spent five sevenths of our time doing is called work, not fun, for a reason. We can have fun at work for sure. But there are generally obligations and responsibilities in exchange for compensation, so it can’t be just fun all the time.

With that in mind, I was recently asked “how do you stay in 80/20 (equilibrium)?” I paused for a second before replying. I don’t know why I did, because it is always been clear to me. I responded, “being intellectually curious.”

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I thought about this a bit more since the conversation. My work life has had various iterations of being a consultant, which is not atypical for someone in our industry. But I believe that how I stay in equilibrium is through curiosity. Let me give you an example. It’s the same example I gave the individual who asked me about how I stay 80/20.

In 2003 I started a project with the Government of Canada. It was supporting the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure, or CGDI. SOUNDS EXCITING RIGHT! Not as exciting as an Adidas collaboration, obviously, but hang on with me for a second. What I took away from that work and those meetings has helped me for the last 15 years. See, the CGDI develops all of the maps for Canada and was at the forefront of mapping technologies used in the GPS devices and apps we all use. An oversimplification is that Global Positioning System + Geospatial Maps = Waze, Google Maps, Apple Maps, TomTom, etc. Many of these systems didn’t exist in 2003. Being curious about how this all worked back then, and continuing to explore this area means that at a system level I understand how the mapping services work. These are the types of insights to build ideas on.

Over these 15 years I have taken that same curiosity to every client that I have ever had. Being curious means that you are learning and growing. I am repeating myself here, but I am pretty sure that what we all want is meaningful work where we continue to learn.

So be curious. Ask questions. Dive deeper. Try to understand. That’s a key to success. It’s what I do every day, AND if you’re lucky like I am, you build and surround yourself with a team that acts the same way. I love working with people who sponge knowledge instinctively.