Maintaining an Outsider Perspective

I was on a United Polaris Business flight for the first time in a year. Everything was pretty great, but when I decided to use that flatbed to get some sleep I couldn’t find how to turn the passenger light off. I tried all the knobs, turning off two other lights but not that one.

I tried the button with the little moon on it, thinking that meant sleep mode. I still have no idea what happens when you press that button, it just turns red. After 3 minutes of feeling stupid, I asked a flight attendant passing nearby and she pointed at a button in the entertainment system’s remote as if that was the most obvious thing in the world.

Who would think that one specific light one have a button not near the rest of the seat adjustments, but next to some volume button on a remote? Yet, for that flight attendant that seemed like the most intuitive thing in the world.

Similarly in our businesses, we eventually stop seeing things the way everyone else does. We get accustomed to the way things are, and that way starts making sense to us.

This is not the case initially. Whenever a new member joins your team, they are likely to be asking dozens of questions a day, whenever something doesn’t feel intuitive to them or just plain makes no sense. Unfortunately, too many teams shrug these questions off as inexperience, and “you’ll get used to it.”

Au contraire! These are exactly the things you should be paying attention to. Getting that fresh blood in your team, that outsider’s perspective you have all lost with time is priceless. Instead of dismissing it, use it. Make sure that every new hire knows that you’re expecting their list of questions. This makes them more likely to ask “stupid” questions, and makes them even more mindful during those first days on the team.

I have seen time and again when starting work with a new client how simply asking “why?” can turn up issues that everyone have taken for granted, yet that could be ameliorated. Be it the day-to-day details, like your build chain or your 1-on-1 frequency, to things over higher import such as architecture choices, business models, etc.

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