We cannot help but learn from our children. They help us grow. They make us adults. I think any parent can tell you that. There are some lessons, though, that many of us miss. Our kids can teach us not only how to be better men and women, they can teach us how to be better in business. I’m not telling you to grab a pen and paper to take notes as they manage a lemonade stand – fun though that would be. No, I’m talking about listening to what they say and appreciating their mindset. We are in such a hurry to grow up that we fail to recognize that some of the traits we see as “childish” are exactly the ones we need to see more of in our companies. Some of their most admirable qualities can be distilled down a single word: Why.
Many of us have a bad habit of losing our curiosity as we get older. Kids do not have this problem. If you do not believe me, ask a mom or dad how often they field the question “Why?” in their house. Captive insurance is a big part of my business, and when I explain it to people, typically, I find more nodding heads than raised hands. I respect that most of my audience is sharp enough to pick up on the core concepts, but I cannot imagine they do not want clarification on certain points. How frequently are you in a meeting where someone asks a question that you should have? We button up because we fear to appear out of the loop. I want to challenge you to do something: Have confidence enough in your own intelligence to realize that if you do not understand something, maybe it deserves an explanation.
An agile ability to learn, being willing to ask, “Why?” will also help combat plateaus and ruts within your company. To be innovative, you will need to question your processes. Keep your company’s purpose, its ethos, rock steady, but examine the systems you are using to pursue this goal. Take stock of everything you do and the departments you touch. You might find that the majority of these operations have a clear purpose. However, if you ask for the reasoning behind something and the answer is “Because it’s always been done this way,” you may want to take it back to the drawing board.
When we are young, it is considered the norm that we should learn something every day. We go to school, then ask our parents to fill in the gaps. We do not expect our kids to have all the answers yet. This is a courtesy we need to extend to one another and to ourselves. It feels as though some of us decide that we are done; that this is as mature or wise as need be. This mindset of being finished is so brittle that it tends to crumble when it butts up against something we do not know. We are forced into silence to preserve this aura of intelligence instead of inviting growth with a single word: Why?