by Peggy Wilson, President & CEO
Someone other than Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” Nevertheless, many of us fall into the trap of perpetuating routines. We keep doing things “the way they’ve always been done.” No problem, if your sales and market share rise persistently. But as Ferris Bueller says, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Ferris is truly insightful. Over a decade ago, visionary author Simon Sinek wrote a groundbreaking book called Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. It shares how organizations remain relevant through innovation, and how self-scrutiny (asking “why” about everything) reveals the solutions to their business challenges. In other words, why you need to stop, look around—and adapt with the market.
Say no to the status quo
According to the Harvard Business Review, decision makers have a strong bias toward “alternatives perpetuating the status quo.” This is dangerous because decisions become less objective. Questioning the “why” of certain practices can identify which of them no longer help your business grow.
Realizing your business growth or brand appeal has become stagnant is understandably unsettling. It’s also a sign what you do and the way you do things need to change. Customers want to do business with people they know, like and trust. Employees want to work where they believe in the company’s purpose. Ask yourself, for example:
- Do you attend the same trade shows year after year because they’re familiar?
- Do you use jargon customers may not understand because it’s always been part of your standard presentation?
- Is your social media engagement stagnant or even declining?
Asking “why” can help you see and understand customers’ perspectives, enabling you to make better decisions about products and services.
Asking “why” is cringy but critical
You’re challenging the very foundation of your brand and business. And who wants to be the guy who shakes it up? Won’t it bring everything you’ve built to a crashing halt? I’m here to tell you asking “why” will actually make the foundation stronger and more resilient. Do not be afraid to ask: Why do we do what we do? Why do we do things the way we do them? Why do people want to work here? Why do customers buy (or not buy) from us?
Forbes Councils member and columnist Charlie Riley advises, “Since this type of questioning can be off-putting, you must create a culture where it’s safe for your team to raise questions.” He recommends starting with open-ended ones such as:
- Why do we consider this important?
- Why did we base our decision on this information?
- Why do we want to take this particular direction?
Why to ask us “why”
People won’t truly buy into a product, service, movement or idea until they understand the “why” behind it. While I touched on this earlier, I’ll elaborate a little more here as it relates to your “internal customers,” aka your employees. Never presume they all know and understand your company’s purpose. When they know the purpose, it’s extremely inspiring and motivating. In effect, it raises morale and strengthens company loyalty.
We have the privilege of taking our clients through what is essentially a process of discovery. As we learn about them, they learn more about themselves and their organizations. And the effect on them can be nothing short of transformative.
I personally appreciate how challenging my business with “whys” keeps us relevant and dynamic. We use “why” as gospel in our methodology here all the time. For ourselves and the marketers we represent. Sure, answering the “whys” can be tough. But challenging yourself and your company to be better will be immeasurably rewarding. I see the impact it has every day.