The Importance of Questioning

As children, our insatiable curiosity manifested itself in the persistent asking of “Why?”. This was often, if not always, met with the definitive, “Because I said so.” Hearing this answer repeatedly throughout our formative years taught us not to question authority – be it parents, coaches or teachers. While this blind adherence to authority may have kept us safe as children, it all too often remains persistent throughout adolescence and adulthood – either consciously or subconsciously.

However, if we as marketers want to innovate in this industry, we must break this cycle of accepting answers at face-value by adjusting our mindset and questioning every strategy or process with the same curiosity and zeal of a child. We must remember that just because words exist on the page of a best-selling marketing book, they are not facts. We must remember that just because a process has been established by the coworkers before you, it is not without flaw. We must remember that just because a manager provides instruction, it does not need to be blindly followed.

Instruction and company “status quo” are all merely hypotheses constructed by authors, coworkers, and managers that are based on life experiences and various forms of research. Like any scientific hypothesis, these too need to be questioned, scrutinized, and refined.

Read and listen with intent, but don’t blindly absorb and abide. Question continuously. That which doesn’t pass your inquisition, discard immediately or suggest an improvement. That which does should be followed with complete, unwavering confidence.

Elon Musk attributes his ability to redefine two of the world’s most established industries, automotive and aerospace, to his willingness to question that which others accepted as fact. He built Tesla and SpaceX upon a foundation not of industry assumptions; but rather, of First Principles – statements of truth that he arrived at after continuous, persistent, and honest questioning.

As marketers, we must do the same. Read 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Ries and Trout; attend industry seminars; and listen to mentors, managers, and colleagues, but do so with a mental sieve firmly in place, releasing quickly that which doesn’t pass our line of questioning, while holding tightly the gold nuggets that do.

And then, with the nuggets, we build our future.