How many times have you heard or even thought, “that is just the way it is done?” In business, we tend to replicate what we have seen or been taught as “the right way” to accomplish a task. Rarely do we challenge those assumptions – especially when they seem to work. After all, why try to fix something that does not appear to need improvement when there are numerous things that do not work satisfactorily, or could be repaired to perform at a higher level?
Don’t Be Afraid to Challenge Assumptions
If a business is going to succeed, it must be built on a solid foundation that can support growth, adaptability based on changing market needs, and processes that enhance performance, not limit it. The examples are all around us, a retailer or restaurant owner opens a second location that falls far short of the performance of the original location; other businesses remain rooted in archaic practices that assume all sales occur in person and not through online sales, or even demanding a dress code for employees in positions that do not have customer-facing responsibilities or are able to be completed remotely through tele-commuting.
However, because business owners have come to accept those things as acceptable expectations or even in some instances, as requirements, the same eventual cycles keep reappearing – initial success, some growth, then a decline while the business owner acts bewildered at why what once worked does not any longer.
The entrepreneur no longer looks for the better way that may have been the driving force in their initial business model. With the passage of time, competitors entering the market, buyers evolving and requiring different needs to be met than they once may have accepted or even been delighted to receive; the things that once differentiated a business are no longer sufficiently unique or even valued. It is for this reason, that business owners must have a solid base or foundation that allows them to properly respond to changes in business requirements and continue to succeed. Yet, those things that we accept as “a cost of doing business” are not necessarily beyond challenging to ensure that there aren’t better ways.
A Simple Example
A number of years ago, I read a book written by Kareem Abdul Jabbar where he incredulously shared his first day of basketball practice at UCLA with the legendary coach, John Wooden. Expecting that he was going to learn the most sophisticated approaches to being a star basketball player, he was surprised that the very first thing the Hall of Fame reviewed with all of these star athletes was; how to pull up your socks (so that you will not get blisters and have to miss a game or have it impact your performance within a game) and how to tie your shoelaces so they do not come undone during a game (invariably, there will come a time when an opponent’s shoelaces would come untied and that player and team would be disadvantaged because they did not take the time to properly tie their shoelaces. Coach Wooden wanted to avoid that happening to his team!). The lesson left many teammates laughing and thinking it was ludicrous to re-teach 18-22 year-olds how to get dressed and tie their shoes. However; not one time did the UCLA basketball team have a player lose a shoe in the middle of the game or have a player need to retie his shoelaces. That team won three (3) NCAA championships during Jabbar’s four (4) years at UCLA. By not just accepting or taking for granted that college-aged men knew how to tie their shoelaces or pull up their socks, the Coach was clearly ensuring that the foundations for success were in place.
A Fun Example
As you read this, you might be thinking that you know the best way to tie your own shoelaces. Likely have been doing it the same way for decades. Perhaps have even taught others your method for tying shoelaces. However; have you ever really thought about how often you have had to retie them in the course of a week? Perhaps you just considered it as a weakness of the shoelaces that it became undone and accepted that if you were going to wear shoes with laces, it would require an occasional retying. View this video and see if it challenges your assumptions about your own shoelace tying expertise!