Saturday, July 28, 2012

Entrepreneurship lessons from the world of children

I was in the grocery store this week picking up some things for my parents.  This statement alone may shock many people who know me because I really dislike going to the grocery store.  However, they wanted bologna.  I haven't eaten bologna since the days of my mom packing my lunch.  So .. standing at the counter, I asked the person working there what exactly is in bologna.  It's one of those questions you probably don't really want to learn about; however, the person helping me did not know.  So she came out from her safe area to the outside customer space, lifted up the glass and then read the label.

Then I looked at the counter a bit more and found some tapioca.  I asked her what exactly tapioca was.  By now she was getting mad at me, and I realize my curiosity did not find a home in the grocery store.  My husband was with me and listening to the conversations, so as we strolled the aisles, he picked up a box of tapioca.  You would have loved the description on the box -- tapioca was -- well -- tapioca.  That's all it said.

That's when I had a flashback.  I remember my children constantly asking "why - why - why."  I sometimes got annoyed with them in the same way that the person at the meat counter was finding my two questions troublesome.  At first, she had fun learning what exactly was in bologna; she took a risk and walked from her safe spot behind the counter to the area where she did not have to be (in front with the customers) and explored with me.  But after the first adventure she was tired of it.

After this experience, I started looking at my student business ideas.  I'm teaching an entrepreneurship class.  We're using story boards for the business planning process (virtual story boards), and the students are asking questions about each others' ideas.  The questions are incredibly good; the students with the original ideas are reforming their ideas and getting more clarity every day.  However, as I read I wondered if the student with the idea was getting annoyed.  Answering questions and listening to comments about your idea are hard to do.  Then you have to change your original idea in response to what you learn -- also annoying.  However, as the ideas evolve, they get better.  The students reached out of their "safe" zones and by exploring with their peers, they were able to improve upon their ideas.


The magic process is the "why" question.  If you ask enough why questions, you can invent new processes.  If you ask why, you can be entrepreneurial.  Because when you ask WHY you find that sometimes there are no good reasons for why, and there are multiple ways to improve products, services and processes.

This week -honor what we learn from our children.  Use the magic WHY question to become more entrepreneurial in your own work. And when someone asks you why, take pause, think and go out of your own safe zone to explore the answer together.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My undergraduate background is in quality management. The five, six, or seven "why's" are one of the most informative quality tools you can utilize. Whether it's quality or entrepreneurship, the participant is getting to the root source. In quality, it's the root cause of a defect or a process optimization. In entrepreneurship, it's getting to the source of what the market really wants and coming up with a novel approach to meeting that desire.

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