I was talking with my 8-year old daughter the other morning over breakfast. Correction, I was watching in fascination as she was simultaneously eating breakfast, drawing a picture of herself and her friends, and rapid firing a series of questions at me. I found myself answering the standard questions. What is your favorite color? What is your favorite number? Do you like unicorns or princesses better? However, I found myself also answering some very interesting questions. Why don’t they put the vitamins in the orange juice so that we don’t have to take pills? Why don’t they deliver groceries to the house, just like they deliver mail? Why do daddies go to work and mommies stay home?
It reminded me that children question everything, and grown ups don’t. There are a lot of reasons for this. For one, we stop asking questions somewhere in our teenage years because we want to give the impression that we know everything. Then somewhere along the line we convince ourselves that we actually do have all the answers. However, I think that we also become programmed once we start working to stop asking questions. We are given a task to accomplish and then told not to ask questions. Employees who ask too many questions or inquire into the process are often viewed as unproductive and disruptive. The older we get, we simply lose much of our inquisitive and creative side.
This is counter-intuitive because as we gather more knowledge and have a better grasp of the world around us, we are more equipped to ask intelligent questions and identify better solutions to problems.
I wrote a blog a while back where I talked about how we become corporate zombies – simply accepting the status quo and not looking for ways to improve or innovate. This is a similar problem. Business opportunities are ignored because we assume that all the great ideas are taken. We ignore the opportunity to topple a corporate behemoth because we assume they have the optimal business model and no start-up could ever compete with them. Consider Blockbuster Video. They are closing stores in every city. Much of this is due to NetFlix and Video-on-Demand (VoD). However, it is also due to a small, but growing business called Redbox Video. They simply put videos in a vending machine and charge $1. No great creativity, yet they dared to question the current method of video distribution. They applied an age-old technology and undercut the leader’s pricing model. Blockbuster – an inventory heavy, real estate heavy and labor heavy business will soon be a thing of the past. The following is a brilliant “viral video” parody of the Blockbuster business model.
There are huge opportunities in front of all of us. However, we are often blinded by our own inability to question the process. We can learn from the innocence of children by listening to the naïve (brilliant?) questions. Asking “why” is a powerful tool, but it is difficult to implement as we settle into our patterns of behavior.
I think I am going to have more conversations with my kids. I can learn a lot from them.
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