Are you one of those business owners or managers that dares to question the norm? Do you wonder about changing things up in the workplace because you’re not convinced that doing things the same way you’ve always done them is good for business, employee morale, or productivity?

Ultimately as owner, CEO, or manager you’re the boss and the decision-maker but encouraging a healthy dose of “challenging the status quo” is how companies and teams innovate best.


Then Vs. Now

Consider where your company has come from and where you are today.

Do you do provide customer service the same way you did when you were a start-up?

Consider how your customer’s access you by phone. Has staffing and technology kept pace with increases in phone volume and sophistication of inquiries? Do you provide the level of service your customers expect? Is the information they’re looking for (such as orders, FAQs, warranty information, etc.) readily available when they call? Do you offer similar levels of customer service to those who prefer to contact you by email? Do you have systems in place to track inquiries and complaints to ensure timely responses and that nothing ever falls through the cracks?


Do you use your website now the same way you did when you first built it?

Chances are the first iteration of website was little more than a virtual brochure—a way for you to showcase your business, the products and services you offered, and maybe highlight key members of your team. You might have even conducted a little e-commerce there, perhaps via PayPal. And while that’s all well and good, websites these days have become integral parts of their company’s marketing engines. Generally, people engage with websites because they are looking for specific information about a business (phone, fax, email, downloadable forms, etc.); they want to buy a product or arrange a service; or they are looking are looking for specific content and they recognize the brand/business as a leading expert in that area. If you’re not doing all you can to provide valuable content to your loyal customers and prospects, then you’re most likely missing out on numerous opportunities to attract individuals to your brand and to convert them into lasting customers.


Do you view social media as a pain versus as a new, important marketing tool to be leveraged to build a loyal community around your brand?

Ask most business owners and busy professionals about Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and they’ll probably roll their eyes, grumbling something about “not having time for that kind of stuff.” While they might not have time, the metrics don’t lie: their customers most likely do have the time, and whether a company engages in social media conversations directly or not, their customers are most likely talking about them anyway. So wouldn’t a proactive stance of participating in that conversation and perhaps even steering it, be advantageous?


The Art of the Question

These are the kinds of questions business owners and managers should be asking themselves and their teams all the time. Maintaining the status quo is no way to run a business.

A recent article at Huffington Post stated, “Risk-taking and innovation don’t happen when people are discouraged from questioning the norm . . . Company cultures grounded in transparency and openness can hold up just fine to differences of opinion and, in fact, are much richer for it.”

An Inc. Magazine article praised the art of questioning as a “better tool for innovation” in business. According to the article, simply asking questions alone isn’t enough. It’s the ability to ask the right questions that really drives innovation: “The right questions don’t allow people to remain passive. They require reflection, followed by action.”

The article goes on to provide examples from leading entrepreneurs and management thinkers of the kinds of questions business owners and managers should be asking themselves and their teams, including:

  • “If we weren’t already in this business, would we enter it today? And if not, what are we going to do about it?” (Peter Drucker, management expert and author)
  • “What prevents me from making the changes I know will make me a more effective leader?” (Marshall Goldsmith, leadership coach and author)
  • “What are the implications of this decision 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years from now?” (Suzy Welch, author)
  • “What was the last experiment we ran?” (Scott Berkun, author)
  • “What successful thing are we doing today that may be blinding us to new growth opportunities?” (Scott D. Anthony, managing partner, Innosight)


Challenge Yourself

How can you challenge yourself and your team to think outside the norm of the way you have always done business—even as you’ve enjoyed success—so that your brand doesn’t run the risk of becoming stale and slow to react to changes in the marketplace?

Successful innovators are those who sense what’s coming, apply lessons learned from the past, and who dare to ask, as it relates to success, “Why not us?”

Paul June is King Monkey of BARREL O’MONKEYZ, a San Diego-based strategic marketing agency specializing in Sports and Active Lifestyle markets. We serve as a seasoned, outsourced marketing team for companies looking to ramp up sales and launch new products. Our barrel is full of talent and creative arms ready to prove we don’t just monkey around!