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  • Writer's pictureRobert Stevenson

Great Questions Lead To Great Opportunities

Robert Stevenson Blog - Ask & Answer

Many companies were started because someone asked an innocent question. The invention of the Polaroid Instamatic Camera was triggered by a question. The three-year-old daughter of the inventor, Edwin H. Land, asked her father after he took her photo, “Why do we have to wait for the picture, Daddy?”

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak asked, “Why are computers so large? Why can’t we make them small enough to fit in our office or home?” Reed Hastings got a $40 late fee charge on a DVD rental. That event sparked the thought, “Why isn’t there a DVD subscription service that charges no late fees?” Thus, the idea for NETFLIX was founded.

“Why do we have to own the taxis to be in the taxi business?” That one question ignited a $50 billion company; UBER. Taking that same premise, “Why do we have to own hotels to be in the hotel industry?” That lead to Airbnb, a company who is now valued over $30 billion, is active in 34,000 cities in 191 countries and has booked over 80 million nights.

Nobel Laureate and physicist Richard Feynman, said that it was no coincidence that virtually all major discoveries in physics were made by those under the age of 25. When he was asked why, he concluded, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” I guess another way you could put it is, when you are unaware of something that supposedly can’t be done … you go at it with a blind determination to see if it CAN be done. It is amazing what can be accomplished or learned by just asking questions.

In many companies, there are policies, procedures, manuals and rules that people don’t have a clue why they are still doing them. There are so many things we do because that’s the way we have always done it. We could learn a lot from a three-year-old when it comes to how to cull out unnecessary “stuff” in running a business. If you tell a three-year-old to do something, before you get the words out of your mouth, you will hear, “Why?” Is the three-year-old asking that question to annoy you or are they just trying to drive you crazy? In most cases, they don’t know why. It’s our job to have the answer. Now, you can be the big, bad parent and just say, “Because I said so,” and make them follow your request blindly with no explanation … but, that technique doesn’t work very effectively in the business world.

Great companies realize that if they are not changing with the times, considering new possibilities and looking for better ways, they will soon become a distant memory to their customer. If you are thinking about having a meeting to change, tweak, enhance or eliminate a policy, procedure, rule, method, system or regulation, you might want to have everyone read this...Titles, agendas, bias, tenure, gender, culture, and loyalties need to be checked at the door. Everyone has one vote and every opinion, matters. To be able to find new ways you have to be willing to ASK and ANSWER...Why, Why Not, Why Don’t We Try.

Have a “WHY” meeting; everyone comes to the meeting with at least one “WHY DO WE DO THIS” question? If you can’t answer the Why, you’ve identified a problem. A problem identified is a blessing, because you can’t fix what you don’t know to be wrong. May I also suggest you NEVER take offense with someone asking a WHY question. Be happy they are involved and want to know. Great questions can lead to great answers, solutions, products and services. If you want to be more successful, you need to recognize great questions can help to identify great opportunities.


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