Cursory Curiosity

18 Jun, 2019

How common is cursory curiosity? Perhaps I should define what I mean by that. Essentially, every day we have questions that we need answered quickly and simply. Modern technology is amazing for that, for example you need to spell antidisestablishmentarianism, auto correct corrects your spelling, but technically that was a tiny question. Cursory curiosity would be to accept that tiny question is answered and move on. I find it next to impossible to do that, I need to know more; at the very least, I would need to know where the word comes from.

So how common is it to accept the instant answer and move on and how has that changed with the rise of technology? My instinct is that it is worryingly common. In the old days if you had needed to find the spelling of a word you would have gone to your dictionary and looked it up. You would have been forced to put more consideration into using that word. Now you can throw it into a sentence whenever you want to.

OK that’s not bad with words but what about opinions or views. For example, I’m wondering if W.G. Grace is the best cricketer ever so I Google it. The first result page shows this: “William Gilbert “W. G.” Grace MRCS LRCP (18 July 1848 – 23 October 1915) was an English amateur cricketer who was important in the development of the sport and is widely considered one of its greatest-ever players.”. Good enough for me; he’s the best? Well not good enough for me but for how many people would it be good enough?

Obviously this gets a lot more dangerous when you mix in deliberate misinformation and ill-informed opinions with no filter online. At the moment there is a big push to get companies like Facebook to act as police for this, but they are very rightly resistant to this idea, it is only a short step to censorship. Perhaps what we should really be doing is focussing on reducing the prevalence of cursory curiosity. Educating people to always ask one more question, to never accept the simple answer.

What’s all this got to do with brands and advertising? Well, firstly and from a personal point of view I think my curiosity is why I enjoy my job, it is all about regularly learning completely new businesses. It is carte blanche to ask all sorts of questions. Secondly it is something that we should all keep in mind when creating communications because it is the only place where the rules don’t apply. People potentially don’t trust what we have to say, however, they do trust their peers. And the peers they turn to are probably those who are less cursory in their curiosity. Perhaps this is something we should factor into our plans, who and where are the curious people who might be peer hubs that others turn to? In the past it would have been traditional media, and the modern equivalent might be “influencers” but what about the quiet ones? The ones who get asked down the pub what they think, how do we talk to them?