1 September 2023

Would your business be better if it was run by children?

Real-world solutions to real work problems.

 Child dressed in business suit, looking frustratedThere is one thing we all did better when we were children. 

We asked a lot of questions.

And as irritating as we might have sometimes been for our parents, it was without question the best way to learn.


But then we grew up. We got our first job. And after an initial grace period we were expected to stop asking questions.

Because now we were meant to know. Almost overnight we’d become ‘professionals’ - expected to have all the answers. Perish the thought that we might be perceived as being ignorant, or worse stupid, if we didn’t.

 

So now our only way to learn was from experience – usually through our own mistakes or other people’s. It was hardly a great way to do things, but this just seemed to be part of the growing pains we all had to endure in the early years of our professional lives.

It was worrying and sometimes a bit embarrassing when our lack of knowledge became all too obvious. But eventually we all got through it, and it was all fine in the end.

Except it wasn’t.  And it isn’t.  It’s really, really bad for business.

Why?

Because businesses are not just competing with each other, they’re trying to beat each other. And if you aren’t regularly asking what the competition is doing, and what you’re doing or going to do that’s better, pretty quickly you won’t be winning, or even just standing still. You’ll be losing.

So how do we get around our entrenched attitudes and fears about asking questions? How do we rediscover our inner child, so we can feel comfortable showing that – shock horror - we don’t have all the answers?

Well, the answer is really pretty straight-forward. And it’s a solution that you will notice is a recurring theme in many of our articles.


Don’t ask individuals. Ask groups.

People feel much more comfortable when responsibility is shared. When they don’t feel they might personally be held accountable. Which is why group discussions and brainstorming can work so well.

But if you want the best outcomes, you need to make these groups or teams as level in terms of seniority as you can. This way people are far more likely to share their opinions. Pick one individual, preferably someone reasonably confident (but importantly not the most senior person in the group), to act as the central facilitator to keep things on track.

 

This article is part of a series about real-world solutions to real work challenges - that you don’t need an MBA to understand.

Click here to read: 80% of people fear being accountable at work. But you can 100% fix this.

 

Spend time working out what questions you want answers to. And how best to ask them.

You will already have a good idea of what problems you’d like your group to talk about – it’s why you’ve assembled them. But you can’t expect to get good results if you don’t prompt them with the kind of questions you’d like answers to. Equally important is trying to figure out the best method for managing these group discussions. And this certainly isn’t child’s play.

 

In fact, it’s such a big subject, with so many different but proven techniques, that there is far too much to talk about it in this one article. We’re going to explore some of the best of these options in the future.

Starting with our next post: Would your business be better if it had traffic lights? Which will be coming soon.


But right now, just in case there’s any doubt about how important asking questions is, here's a great quote from Albert Einstein, that makes it pretty clear how he feels about the subject:

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask. For once I know the proper question, I could solve the question in less than five minutes.”

 

This article is part of a series about real-world solutions to real work problems - that you don’t need an MBA to understand.

Click here to read: How could the world's most successful sports team really help your business?

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