“Daddy, why do I have to eat my vegetables?”
“Because they are good for you.”
“Why are they good for me?”
“Because they have lots of nutrients that your body needs.”
“Why does my body need nutrients?”
“Because nutrients provide our body fuel to function properly.”
If you have ever spoken to a young child for a length of time you know how these kinds of conversations take place. From our standpoint these conversations can be frustrating as we scour our brains for the right answers to their curiosity driven questions. While potentially frustrating, I find that we as adults lose this sense of curiosity and the desire to ask “why?” Whether in our homes, churches, schools, or our workplaces, we often take at face value what very well should be challenged.
I currently attend a class focused on “Innovation and Design Thinking for Business,” and I am often struck by the somewhat silly conversations that take place with my classmates regarding our workplaces. All of my classmates work in different industries, organization sizes, tax filing statuses, and positions, yet remarkably we all share similar experiences. Often, long-standing company traditions come up in conversation and the rest of the group teases and inquires as to “why” the organization continues to operate that way. Unfortunately, the answers are often worse than the ones we scramble to share with a 4-year old child.
Being in a consultant role, I have the luxury of asking leadership and employees, “Why do you have these meetings? Why is this current system in place? Why do you use this certain platform or program?” All too often the response doesn’t answer the real question: “Because we have to have weekly staff meetings. Because our last CFO put the system in place. Because everybody else uses that program?” As a consultant I need to ask “why” in order to better understand the organization. For regular employees, daily operations become commonplace and taken for granted the longer one’s tenure with the company. In order to continue to grow and be successful we must be bold enough to ask these questions within our organization.
Let’s get to the core of why we do what we do. Take meetings (an easy area to pick on) for example. We may feel that we have far too many of them and get far too little out of them. Start asking yourself, “Why do we hold this meeting?” If you don’t like your response, start to re-think your meeting. If the meeting has no meaning beyond small talk, stop hosting them. If it doesn’t have the right meaning, change the purpose. Status quos are meant to be challenged, that is how progress occurs. Next time that 4-year old puts you through an interrogation, pay attention, there might be something to learn from them.