Have you ever stopped, thought, and asked yourself the question? When I consult with companies—people more correctly—this is a common type of thinking that is often lacking.
Why must it be done this way, is a question that sorely needs to be asked from time to time. For instance, in Challenge Institutional Knowledge,” I challenge common ‘facts’ passed on mindlessly within established organizations.
The reasons for doing something a certain way often change over time. Frequently the justification completely disappears. Yet, if no one asks, “…why must it be done this way?” the activity or way of thinking often continues unabated. We see it all the time.
Part of the reason for this, is that I believe our culture has evolved to suppress creative thinking. If you are a ‘creative,’ if you are the odd person in your group, you are often chided. From childhood through adulthood, we hear, “Stay between the lines,” “the nail that sticks up gets hammered,” that’s not how we do it here,” and one of my favorites, “It’s my way or the highway!”
…one of my favorites, “It’s my way or the highway!”
If you are willing to ask the question I pose, then you are at least demonstrating a willingness to think outside the box, the consider things new. You are heading down a creative path.
There must be a reason Albert Einstein once stated, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” In today’s world, with internet search and big data, that statement is more true than he could have ever imagined at the time. If our imagination, our ability to be creative, is more important than raw knowledge, why aren’t more of us asking questions? After all, isn’t it more fun to create than to mindlessly drone on doing the same things we have day in and day out?
Ok, lest somebody call me out on this: No, I am not saying we should all start mindlessly questioning everything that goes on at work, disruptively questioning, “Hey [boss], Why! in the world are we doing…’this’ way.” The message is for everyone to think, to pay attention, and as we evolve in our daily lives (through learning, reading, socializing…), be conscious instead of half-asleep.
Years ago, I became aware of the Toyota Production System. Within it, I found one of the keys to my personal success as a consultant: The Power of Why! The intent is to repetitively ask questions until you understand the simple, core reason, underlying an otherwise seemingly complex problem. I provide my own 5-Whys example of how a single loose nut caused a 70-server data center to shut down. Humorous. After the fact.
A key component I am leading to here, is the importance of connecting the dots.
In Vision is Better 3, author, blogger, and photographer, David Duchemin states, “Creativity, to unfairly simplify it, is about connecting dots.” “One of the best things we can do—whether we’re photographers, writers, or entrepreneurs—is to gather more dots.” You gather dots, by reading, watching movies, having conversations…sucking in—as David indicates—raw materials for new ideas.
John C. Maxwell, bestselling author, wrote “How Successful People Think” points out, “Most often, creative thinking is a composite of other thoughts discovered along the way.” He too speaks of ‘connecting the dots.’
You do not need to be one of history’s great thinkers. You need to gather dots and find new ways to connect them—regardless your ‘place’ in God’s world.
So, keep your eyes open, ears tuned, and think about what happens to you as you go through the day. If something seems to have gone stale, if reasons no longer seem apparent or appropriate, feel free to ask, “Why Must It Be Done This Way?”
What’s the worst that will happen? You learn something new.
Eye of the Tiger – Gareth du Plessis