Asking the Naïve Question in Business

‘If we weren’t already doing it this way, is this the way we would start?’

  • Paul DePodesta


This is the naïve question Paul Depodesta asks his organization. The idea being, to see if the current business plan is working. Taking it a step further, you analyze your business and see if the systems you use for decisions are valid in the current industry environment.

DePodesta gained some fame for the Michael Lewis book, ‘Moneyball’. MoneyBall is the story about Billy Beane, the GM of the Oakland A’s baseball team in the early 2000’s, and how they were going to compete with other big league teams with much larger bank payrolls. It was also made into a movie with Brad Pitt in 2011, and Depodesta is the person Jonah Hill’s character is based on.

The A’s had to get creative to compete with better financed teams like the Yankees. The trick was to find talented players who had certain deficiencies to compete. The A’s could never compete head to head with the Yankees and just buy the most expensive players. So Beane and DePodesta had to consult within their own organization and figure out a way to find bargain players with talent.

They would ask the why questions to the baseball old guard to see if there was a different way to operate. ‘Why do we do it this way?’ was the q they asked of themselves. A sample why q for the average business would be: ‘Why do our customers buy from us?’

Be careful not to have the answer: ‘this is the way we have always done it’. This is not just lazy, but can be detrimental to the future of your business.

Often people hold onto old practices, even long after those practices serve their purpose. Change happens, and techniques that once were successful can become outdated quickly and have little to no use. Does this method still work? Has it ever worked?

Analyzing your business to see how it really operates, what is working, and what do you need to change. Using a ‘results oriented’ measuring system certainly helps. If you cannot afford to hire a consultant (or even if you can), then you can ‘Self Consult’ your business quarterly, or at least yearly.

It is good for all business’ to have principals and core beliefs. You just want to be able to adjust with technology, and trends in your industry as to not hinder your business growth. The old adage ‘Adapt or Die’ applies in business. This is crucial with your thinking, as it must be long term but certainly has to be adaptable also.

“Actually ‘what is our business’ is almost always a difficult question which can be answered only after hard thinking and studying. And the right answer is usually anything but obvious.” —Peter F. Drucker

The famous business consultant, Peter Drucker was known for challenging his clients and asking the tough questions. So much so, that his philosophy is usually summed up in his questioning technique. Drucker had 5 questions he always posed to determine if a business was on the right path:

Drucker’s 5 q’s

What is our mission? Who is our customer?

What does our customer value? What is our plan?

What are our results?


So go back and review your business. Test your current plan, and see what the results are really producing over the last year. Competition in life and business for sure is fierce. Likely your competitors are thinking of new ways to get an edge.

Good luck in your business.


For more reference info:

Peter Drucker – Effective Executive (book)

Richard Koch - 80/20 Principle (book)

Boston Consulting Group – BCG Matrix by Bruce Henderson

Al Ries and Jack Trout – Positioning (marketing)

Guy Kiasaki – 12 Pivotal Lessons Steve Jobs Taught Guy Kawasaki

Bain & Co. – philosophy

Theodore Leavitt - Marketing Myopia

Michael Lewis - Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game






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