Welcome All!

If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Reflection – part 2 of 3: The “Why” Question

Following my earlier post (part 1of 3 on reflection: "Ask Yourself"), this post adresses the questions we ask ourselves.  

“How should we implement the new strategy?”
“What should we do to survive in this economy?”‘
“What is the best approach to leadership these days?”
“What is it that distinguishes us from our major competitors?”
“How do we get our workforce to embrace the upcoming changes?”
“What should be done to reduce overtime and cut costs?”

All valid and significant questions, but I believe their significance diminishes drastically without asking yourself the question of all questions: WHY?

“Why are we in this business at all?”
“Why do we do the things the way we do them?”
“Why is it that we want to operate worldwide?”
“Why do we think customer satisfaction is of major importance?”
Or even more fundamentally: “Why are we in business? Why do I exist? What’s my purpose in business and in life?”

Are we escaping from freedom, as philosopher Eric Fromm would say, by not asking the “why” question? Which starts with the ‘why’ question turned inward since we cannot operate effectively without self-questioning.
The notion and importance of the “Why” question is, of course, not new at the scene let alone that I would want to claim ownership of the concept. For many centuries philosophers of all breeds have asked themselves the “Why” question. In more recent history, Viktor Frankl, Austrian psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor, focused on the “why” of things and on purpose in life. So does Richard Leider, coach, speaker, and author, who emphasizes the importance, joy, and fulfillment of purposeful living. The well known strategist Kenichi Ohmae states in his classic “The Mind of the Strategist” that companies have to challenge the business and the strategic thinking by confronting what’s taken for granted in an industry or business by asking the simple question “why”. Instead of accepting the first answer he promotes to keep asking “why” until there is nowhere to go with your “why”. So does author and consultant Peter Block, who writes that there are more important questions than ‘what’ or ‘how’. He reminds us that getting the question right may be the single most important thing we can do in life and in business.

Even though the notion of the importance and impact of the “why” question is not new, pondering the very question and acting upon it is still foreign to many people, leaders and non-leaders alike. Do you know what drives you? Do you know why you get up every morning other than to silence your alarm clock? Do you take time for the many “why’s” in your life? Only if you take time to contemplate and to reflect are you really in charge of your own life and are you really your own screen writer, editor, and stage manager.

“Questions are too big and take too long
only if you expect a final resolution”.

From Peter Block’s book “The Answer to How is Yes”

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