Smart Enough to Ask?
I once heard a story about a family gathering around Thanksgiving. It was a great time of celebration with 4 generations all under one roof. While some of the family were in the kitchen, a young daughter watched from the counter as they prepared the Turkey for the oven. Her mom tied the legs together and placed the turkey in a large roaster with the legs straight up in the air. Then she adjusted all the shelves in the oven, so the upright turkey would fit. Curious about why her mom did this, she asked. Her mom gave the answer so many of us hear and even say daily, “That’s the way I’ve always done it”.
Not satisfied with the answer, she walked into the living room where her grandmother was sitting and asked the same question. She received a similar answer, “That’s how my mom showed me”. Curiosity now had ahold of three generations. A line of daughters continued to the great-grandmother, all wanting to know the same answer. Her great-grandmother gave an answer that surprised everyone listening, “My oven was really small. The only way I could fit the turkey was to put it on its end with the legs straight up in the air.” The small oven had created the need for a modified process. The cause was now removed, but the modified process and additional work were still in place. It only took 4 generations to understand why.
A CEO of a large company once told me, “You don’t have to be smart enough to answer the question, just smart enough to ask it.” In today’s world, markets, customers, competition, technology, and society are always changing. Due to this constant change, there is a continual need for self-evaluation. To stay in the forefront of your profession, you must always ask why things are done, what were the factors that made it necessary, do they still exist and what should change to make them more efficient? These systems and processes must continually be refined to make sure you are functioning at the best level possible. The moment you get comfortable is when you begin to lose ground.
Old keys won’t open new doors. Some will be unwilling to ask the question. They will remain overconfident in what they have always done. Others will not challenge tradition in fear of repercussion. This behavior will always lead to loss. Those that let “traditions” control the future will eventually change but usually at the initiation of someone else and usually with a less positive atmosphere. Evaluation will come one way or another. If you don’t initiate the conversation, it will come through your customers, employer, employees, or partner.
If you are willing to ask, the result will provide opportunities to launch into new levels where performance, profitability, and influence will increase. Along with these benefits, you will create an atmosphere where fresh life, new vision, and innovative ideas will thrive. Take control of your life, business, or relationship and propel it to the next level by getting in front of constant change with this simple yet painful step of asking why.