In the fast-paced 21st Century era, change is everywhere, and it is constant. Very often companies need to adapt to stay relevant. As consumers, it is easy to believe that this just entails ensuring there is a demand for the products and services a company offers. After all, there is not much of a market for the Nokia brick while the iPhone 6S is already being phased out. But that is only the tip of the iceberg.
The way in which a company is run; the decision-making process, the opportunities staff are offered, the way teams are motivated, etc. are subject to change. We need change. Change is progress.
There are two main models through which an organisation can assess the need for change and follow through; the ‘orthodox route’ and the ‘Appreciative Inquiry’ path. The first studies a situation where there has been a noticeable deficit in an area of performance. The latter accepts nothing to be set in stone and studies what may already be acceptable, yet still seeks to improve. Whichever way an organisation views change, whether starting from a place of negative or positive, the starting point is the same. We ask questions.
As children, we refuse to accept anything as fact. The average child under the age of nine asks hundreds of questions daily: The sky is blue. But why? Water is wet. But why? Flowers live in the ground. But why?
This ‘why’ is far more important than bored, and often perplexed, parents realise. They encourage learning and a wider understanding of the world, which in turn, encourage growth.
The young childhood stage of life is the most inquisitive. Unjaded by those around us, we constantly harass anyone over 4 foot with one question after another, until the adult is fed up, and redirects us; generally to a teacher, a relative, or in this day and age, an iPad.
To children, the idea of just accepting a fact as a fact never occurs. That is, until this is eventually beaten out of us. Over the years, many of us lose the drive to learn beyond the horizons of our education. We stop being curious. By the time the average individual experiences their first day at work; they want to know exactly what they need in order to ‘get the job done,’ and do not even consider querying beyond those borders. We stop thinking about the ‘five W’s’ and start accepting facts blindly, a dangerous path to lead both our professional and personal lives down.
Bringing this back to business; if we do not question, we cannot evaluate. If we cannot evaluate, we cannot learn. If we cannot learn, how can we possibly improve our organisations? Before a CEO knows it, they may find themselves considering all the right questions… only at this point, they have gone bankrupt.
‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ may have been the preferred attitude once, but overall it is not an effective approach. Instead, we could consider the ‘why’s’ of our actions. This does not mean that all our actions are at fault, but if the reason for our actions is ‘because it’s always been done this way,’ that may be the best place to start thinking innovatively.
I do not propose questioning everything. However, querying business decisions taken arbitrarily, in a rush, or ‘because it was the easiest choice’ will go a long way towards improving the quality of decision-making and expanding our creativity.