Question (Almost) Everything


Question (Almost) Everything
© treety

Your Business

Albert Einstein once said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Someone on the internet wisely added, “To stop questioning is to accept, regardless of what it could be.” Passive acceptance of what appears to be the norm is not a desirable quality in the business world. 

Think for yourself. Don’t be a blind conformist; challenge the conventional wisdom. Some of the best and most useful innovations have come from actively questioning the way things have been done in the past.

As Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx, points out, “You absolutely, positively have to innovate, if only to survive.”  

It’s not necessary to always agree with your workgroup. What has appeared to be desirable in the past might not be as beneficial as you once thought it was. Take a fresh look at what you regularly encounter at work. Ask yourself, do we have to continue to do things this way?  

Make a point of searching for more efficient ways of doing business. Your suggestions to update old or unnecessary operational procedures could improve company profitability.

Older and very large companies tend to become more bureaucratic and inflexible over time. Your suggestions for possible changes or innovations may help your organization achieve continued long-term success.  

It is also a good idea to question much of what you read and hear outside the workplace these days. Political speeches and statements to the media are often biased or self-serving, and reality could be the opposite of what’s being presented. Ask yourself, why is this being said at this time?

You may have to read between the lines, carefully considering the source, to fully understand. Remember, what is not said is often more important than what is said. Erroneous information and data presented in public forums can derail you in your quest for improvement. 

A favorite statistical trick, for example, is to pick a convenient beginning point or year that results in a trend showing a percentage increase or decrease, when a slightly different beginning point would have given the opposite answer. (We used to joke about that when I was in the planning business.) Don’t be fooled by statistical gymnastics.   

When your conclusions are substantially different than current operations, don’t be in a big hurry to present them. Do your own quiet analysis, organize your thoughts and keep your ideas to yourself until they are fully formed. You don’t want to be a jerk, spouting out unformed ideas to everyone around you at inappropriate times and places. 

Someone once said, “A smart man knows what to say; a wise man knows whether or not to say it.” Of course, “when to say it” should be added to that advice. Timing can be everything.

With imagination and luck, you may be able to improve the way you do things in the short term without having to immediately present your concepts to anyone else. Wait until the right moment arrives to make intelligent and well thought out suggestions that might affect other workers. 

Carefully plan the way you will offer your thoughts to management. A finely-tuned presentation to your company’s decision makers will make all the difference in its success.

Remember, your reputation and future depend on it.  

Jack Goodhue, management coach, can be reached at

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