"Obsess about the why."

March 13, 2020


In his eighth blog, Ethan continues to write about experiences from his Business Officer Apprenticeship at Leeds East Academy:

“Obsess about the why.” That was the advice I and three other apprentices were given during the first Trust apprenticeship meeting with Mr Whitaker.

A week later I was sat on a bus in queuing traffic reading an article in Harvard Business Review that mirrors almost exactly what was said that afternoon. The article, titled ‘The Business Case for Curiosity’, highlights the benefits and barriers to curiosity in the workplace and key ways to integrate this quality within organisations. In my blog this week I will explore how I have displayed curiosity and the effects it is having on my professional development.

"Since reading this article I have been excited. I am now fully engaged in my work. I hunger not just for more knowledge of how, but for why."

In every job there are moments where you seem to just passively work with no conscious effort to question why. I found myself doing that last week whilst processing invoices. It brought no fulfilment to my day regardless of the achievement that I processed the full batch of invoices.

Francesca Gino, professor at Harvard Business School, states that as part of a study a text message was sent to half of the group reading, “What is one topic or activity you are curious about today?... Please make sure you ask a few ‘Why questions’… Please set aside a few minutes to identify how you’ll approach your work today…” 

Since reading this article I have been excited. I am now fully engaged in my work. I hunger not just for more knowledge of how, but for why. I have experienced a turbulent week in which changes were made to the storing of financial documents. I understood enough to just say yes but instead I wanted the full picture and questioned “Why are we changing to store them this way?” With increased understanding in the projected outcome and vision for ‘the how’, the experience of doing becomes more fulfilling.

This new obsession for understanding ‘the why’ has motivated me to read a chapter ahead in my college coursework so that I can easily understand the bookkeeping controls in the classroom. Before my last class I studied about bank reconciliations. I have never performed a bank reconciliation and wasn’t even sure they were done at Leeds East Academy. I approached this thought with curiosity asking senior colleagues for an explanation. I could be satisfied with the knowledge that bank reconciliations occur monthly when the bank statement is received however, I want to experience this for myself and will get the chance at the close of the month.

Our next apprenticeship meeting is also scheduled at the end of the month and I’m excited to learn more from my colleagues between now and then. I have developed a greater passion for learning and improving than I previously had. My hope is to remember to be curious daily, whilst following the advice of Professor Gino to “identify how I’ll approach [my] work today.”  



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