A few weeks ago, I ran across a TED Talk from Seth Godin in which he shared the importance of always asking the question, “What is this for?” During his presentation, Godin outlines the importance of asking this question about everything we do, but specifically in the area of education.
Godin highlights some interesting insights into the changes that need to be made in education to help students and young adults succeed in today’s world. But I think the bigger issue is that we rarely take the time in any arena to take a step back and ask the question, “What is this for?”
One of the things that a university education does is help you think critically. However, in our current system of work, people that “push back” in the classroom and at work often get reprimanded. People who challenge the status quo aren’t taken seriously. After being silenced and chastised time and time again, it’s easy to come to a point where challenging the status quo isn’t worth it.
At the same time, it’s often people who question the current system that stand out and rise above the rest. It’s the ones who challenge conventional thinking who are the ones who create new things.
Oftentimes, we don’t question the effectiveness of a particular process or system until it’s not working well. However, wouldn’t you rather improve through preventive maintenance than through necessity? Taking the time to step back and ask the question, “What is this for?” is something that’s important for every school, church, organization, or person, even if it’s currently healthy.
For seasoned leaders, make sure you’re creating an environment where challenging the status quo is accepted. Do the people you lead feel comfortable coming to you with new ideas? How many times have you said no to an idea simply because it forced a change?
For younger leaders, never get to a point where you stop evaluating and questioning whether something is working as well as it possibly can. As you grow older, it’s a lot easier to become set in your ways. Do everything you can now to adopt a mentality that will continually help you challenge the status quo in every area for the rest of your life.
Are you asking, “What is this for?” What benefits have you observed after asking this question?