At home, I get asked “Why?” all the time. I have three young children and their capacity for questioning is nearly endless. Some recent examples: “Why can’t we have a small pig as a pet?”; “Why do we say better instead of gooder?”; and the classic, “Why do I have to take a nap?” As parents, we do our best to answer these questions because we want to encourage curiosity and an understanding of how the world works.
It struck me recently, though, that as adults at work, we sometimes lose this natural curiosity…or it is discouraged to the point where we just quit asking.
And that’s a bad thing.Who gets to ask “Why?”
Leadership and business literature, and even pop culture, are full of stories and anecdotes encouraging leaders to ask “Why?” The goal is often to improve or even eliminate practices that were once necessary, but may be no longer. The lesson here is: fight against organizational inertia and question the mantra, “But we’ve always done it that way.”
A few favorite stories that illustrate this point nicely:
This is an important lesson for any leader to embrace. However, I’d like to encourage a different twist for leaders and managers: does your team truly have the same permission to ask “Why?”
Does your team truly have permission to ask “Why?”
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Considerations and blind spots
Do people in your organization do things “because you said so?”
Compliance is a wonderful thing, but compliance without context rarely leads to optimal solutions. A healthy organization should be able to debate and have constructive dialogue around organizational initiatives. The goal isn’t to ask why like a four-year old (why, why, why, why…), or to grind all progress to a halt with questions that have been covered. The goal is to come up with a solution from diverse points of view without fear of questioning managers and leaders.
Do you know the downstream impact of your directions and ideas?
When a team won’t question, an incredible amount of effort can be spun up that the leader is unaware of and never intended to happen. To guard against this, I’ve found myself proactively providing qualifiers to my team when the “direction” is more of an idea or suggestion: “This is just an idea,” “Don’t turn the world upside-down to answer this question,” and “Do not spend more than two hours on this.” The desire to please the boss can create a lot of unnecessary work that no one ends up happy about.
How do you react when your direction is questioned?
Actions speak louder than words. All of this wonderful theory goes right out the window if the first time you are questioned, a public dressing-down occurs for the questioner. The team will learn quickly not to be on the receiving end of that.
I personally have found two benefits when my directions are debated among my team.
Gasp—leaders are human, too. Something that is a gut feel or directional in nature may shift dramatically with new facts. As a leader, you have to be open to the possibility that you can occasionally be wrong.Questioning becomes infectious (in a good way)
Once your team sees for themselves that a leader can be constructively questioned without dire personal consequences, the quality of dialogue and decision making increases dramatically. Your team has brains—and this is a way to let them use them. An unintended outcome I’ve seen from this is collaboration among the team (in my absence even), around ideas and thoughts that aren’t completely baked. You can get ideas out in the open without fear that they must be perfect to be discussed. You prevent wasted time and make faster, better decisions. Once your team gets in this rhythm, encountering other departments or groups that may not have “permission to ask why” sends off alarm bells in their heads—for the better of the organization.
Lastly…remember to ask yourself “why” as often as possible. You may be surprised to find out that something you thought was written in stone is just a set of assumptions.
And that’s a gooder place to be.
People don’t do very well with passwords. No matter how many times security experts warn us about using — and re-using — easily guessed passwords, last year almost 17% of us locked (maybe) our accounts with the password “123456.” Thus mobile device makers have for some time resorted to fingerprint identification to secure smartphones and some other mobile devices instead of relying on passwords. In fact, fingerprint identification has been with us long enough for people to start finding ways to get around it, so some businesses are now escalating the development of other biometric identification techniques.
Articles from Ohio Web Library:
Since last October, libraries have been sharing pictures of their spaces with us for us to pass along on Twitter and Facebook. We’ve gotten some great pictures—many thanks to everyone who has been contributing. We’ve seen folks in the community sharing and liking these so we wanted to put them in one place for you to see.
Beautiful pictures of libraries! Do you have a #LibrarySpaces photo to share?
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If you’d like to add your picture to our collection and maybe see it featured in the future, send a photo (minimum size 1920 x 1080; JPG, please) to email@example.com. Please also include a brief caption with the name of the library, city and country. By submitting photos this way, you confirm that you own the image rights and agree to OCLC’s use of them in digital and print marketing and communications.
So many great library spaces, so many great pictures. Thanks again, and we look forward to seeing yours!
Koo Chen-Fu Memorial Library at NTU College of Social Sciences in Taipei, Taiwan
Pilgrim Library at Defiance College in Defiance, Ohio, USA
Amistad Research Center at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Houston Cole Library at Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama, USA
Deakin University Library in Geelong Waurn Ponds, Australia
Douglas and Judith Krupp Library at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island, USA
Moraine Valley Community College Library in Palos Hills, Illinois, USA
University of Sheffield Library in Sheffield, England, UK
Birmingham Public Library in Birmingham, Alabama, USA
Bowling Green State University Libraries in Bowling Green, Ohio, USA
Rena M. Carlson Library at Clarion University in Clarion, Pennsylvania, USA
Roesch Library at the University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio, USA
Howell Carnegie District Library in Howell, Michigan, USA
Mount Holyoke College Reading Room in South Hadley, Massachusetts, USA
Oregon State Library in Salem, Oregon, USA
For the last several years, the wearables market hasn’t been particularly varied; most tended to be either fitness devices or smartwatches. However, research firm Forrester has predicted that 1 in 3 Americans will use a wearable device by 2021. While fitness devices will still likely rule, many other kinds of wearables are coming…and not all of them are even for humans. While there’s going to be more variety, will people actually buy these?
From the Ohio Web Library:
Google's mission is to organizes the world's information and make it universally accessible, Facebook's is to give us the power to share in order to make the world more connected. So why are we so ill-informed and divided?
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