We Don’t Always Have to Know the Answer

We are trained to know answers.

On television this week, night show host Jimmy Kimmel ran a spot where people were asked, “How did you enjoy the president’s inauguration?”

Person after person told what they liked and what they didn’t. Only problem with their answers is the inauguration is next week.

We are taught in school to give answers, right? When the teacher calls on you, the expectation is that you answer the question. We get conditioned to think “I don’t know” is not acceptable.

I know I’m guilty of it. As CEO, I feel like that, as the leader, I should be able to offer an answer when someone asks a question.

But, this “lean” effort is causing me to reconsider.

The more we do “lean” endeavors, the more we discover what we thought was true wasn’t the case.

“Lean” methods ask us to think longer, harder and deeper before we arrive at the right answer. One method is to “ask why” five times. The method causes us to move past the initial perception and dig deeper. It causes us to put aside a gut reaction or an easy answer to get to a more complex, comprehensive result.

As you endeavor to solve complex problems, suspend the tendency to arrive at the first solution or act on the first impulse.

Be humble. Acknowledge that no one always has the right answer.

Ask why another time. Do an additional experiment.

We don’t always have to know the answer. We need to be humble and committed to pursuing the best answer.



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