Challenge the conventional

“Conventional wisdom” is a roadblock for substantial progress.

A college professor once said that the most important thing we could learn was to question everything, respectfully.

Surely this is a familiar sentiment among college students with any philosophy, journalism or history classes, but often the “respectfully” modifier is lost in practice – especially around holiday dinner tables.

In the time since that class, I’ve grown increasingly fond of “why?”

Left alone, “why” can be contradictory – even confrontational – but when anchored by some finesse, it will invariably progress the discussion and improve the final output. Instead of plugging away with the safe, uninspiring route, a tactful challenge to the typical process is the key to untapped potential.

Too often divergent ideas are stifled in the stagnant, frozen waters of convention. There’s equal opportunity for all companies, from upstarts to incumbents, to find new routes beyond the status quo of “business as usual.”

  • Where would Netflix be if it tried to compete with brick and mortar Blockbuster? Probably in the same spot the video store giant is – defunct.
  • How about if Uber recreated the traditional taxi model (and I’m not talking about Danny Devito)?
  • Or if Apple didn’t rally behind the war cry of “think different,” and stuck to traditional computing?

This isn’t to say that a question will swiftly transform a fading business into an industry titan, but it may reveal cracks in the foundation – cracks that are often repairable, when the change needed is prioritized.

If organizations wait too long to think unconventionally, the next time they ask “why” might be while they watch a competitor snatch up their business.

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