Different Question, Better Answers

Takeru Kobayashi revolutionized the sport of competitive eating. At five foot eight inches tall with a slight build, it seemed impossible that Kobi, as he was called, could more than double the previous records in his field. According to Freakonomics Authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Kobayashi’s success might be the secret sauce for business owners who are trying to deal with difficult problems.

Kobi’s strategy began by taking a different look at the situation. Instead of asking the same question his competitors asked (“how do I eat more hot dogs?”), Kobi asked himself, “how do I make hot dogs easier to eat?” This slight change in approach enabled Kobi to devise a new way of eating that captured six straight victories in Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest.

This shift in approach can work in the business world too. Instead of asking what’s broken, start by asking what’s working. Instead of asking a vendor to lower their price, ask how you can make it easier for them to fulfill your order. Instead of asking why you can’t find good sales reps, ask why good sales reps can’t find you. Sometimes asking a different question can create opportunities that drive innovation.

Quote of the Week: “What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question.”
– Jonas Salk

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