TV show host and best-selling author Jeffrey Hayzlett urges business leaders to always ask questions and look for innovative ideas.
By Jeffrey Hayzlett
One day, I was struck by a question my son asked me. We were sitting in the front of my pickup truck when he turned and asked, “Hey Dad, how does ink get in to this pen?” He was holding a standard BIC ink pen in his hands. I thought – first of all, who would ask such a question? Then I was taken back by the awe of the question. It showed an inquisitive mind, and I think that’s what most business people ought to have. Sometimes we don’t question the true reason behind why things happen; instead, we just make assumptions and take them for granted.
For businesses, change begins by changing the question. When the dominant mode of transportation in the 1890’s was by horse, people’s first reactions to a “horseless carriage” had to have been that of disbelief. Henry Ford, the father of the horseless carriage, didn’t ask, “Who would want a horseless carriage?” He asked, “Why wouldn’t everyone want one?”
As a business owner, it’s important to think outside the box and question everything about your business and your industry. That’s where ingenuity and discovery reside. The real growth of your business comes from questioning the things that are mundane, easy, or standard. Ask yourself:
- Why do your customers come to you?
- What do they like most about you?
- What are the things you do best?
- What are the things you don’t do the best?
The simple question of, “How does the ink get in to this pen?” really gets to the fundamental question of delivering a quality product. Customers weren’t aware that they needed a horseless carriage until Ford asked the questions and made them realize they needed one. By asking questions, you’ll fine-tune your messaging, branding, and products to the delight and benefit of your customers.
Take the pen, for example. What other questions could my son have asked after discovering how the ink was put in the pen?
- How does the ink stay in the pen?
- Does the pen come in different colors?
- How does one keep pens from exploding in the heat?
When the first pen was first made, the creators didn’t just look at their pen and say “good enough.” Now we have pens in multiple sizes and colors and from a variety of companies (although many still burst in the heat, much to the chagrin of pants and shirts everywhere). The same goes for Ford – now they have multiple lines of vehicles that come in every color, shape, and size.
We also have to ask venturesome questions, like why anyone would want to put up with the limitations and inconveniences of the current way of doing things? Ford had to remind people of all the inconvenient things about horses. They need food all the time, you’ve got to clean up after them, and they need shelter and extra accessories like saddles and bridles.
Never settle for status quo in business. It’s the leaders who are hungry for more, who question everything, and continue to innovate their products, business, and industry that drive the most change. It was a lesson I first learned with my son some twenty years ago – a lesson I remember to this very day.
Jeffrey Hayzlett is a primetime TV show host and best-selling author. Follow him on Twitter: @JeffreyHayzlett.