Why Asking Meaningful Questions and Deep Thinking Are Superpowers


PUBLISHED: April 15, 2024
Marc Lickfett

What does it take to start your own business today? What does it take to be successful in an ever-changing world that’s shaped by new forces such as AI, climate change and the shifting values of Gen Z?

In this new era, Marc Lickfett believes the ability to ask questions and challenge age-old assumptions is the key to survival, happiness and profitability. Lickfett, a Swedish entrepreneur and business coach, sold his latest company—Knife Aid of Shark Tank fame—to German knife manufacturer ZWILLING J.A. Henckels, where he now occupies the role of vice president of digital transformation.

Knife Aid, which offers a mail-in knife sharpening service, is among a range of businesses that Lickfett says he started, ran and sold in four different countries during the last 25 years. When reflecting on his journey with the brand, the entrepreneur describes it as exciting and instructional, as it was his first U.S. business. According to Lickfett, building Knife Aid during the pandemic and through other unforeseen obstacles showed him to take nothing for granted, and to question even the most fundamental assumptions about the world, business models and practices to ensure long-term success.

For anyone starting a new business or running an existing one today, Lickfett believes there is an increasing need to start asking more meaningful questions—in workshops with the team or with a business coach, or by carving out time for deep thinking. He says asking questions is a skill and approach that still needs to be cultivated in most organizations, as entrepreneurs and CEOs have traditionally been valued for telling people what to do, not for asking insightful questions.

As a business coach certified by the International Coaching Federation, Lickfett recommends blocking out times in the calendar for your staff and organization to work on strategy, the future, or even exploratory inquiries like, “What are questions we should be asking ourselves, but are not?” He says this is necessary if you and your business do not want to pay the price five to 10 years down the line.

“Through coaching, I have understood how the mind loves to feed us tangible, small problems to distract us from the real underlying issues that are much more exhausting to solve. Without resolving those big questions, which form the root causes of our smaller issues, you can never really move on,” Lickfett says. “Our businesses need the skill, time and tenacity to ask the big questions to solve the big issues, which are more often than not the key to long-term business success and a less worried and stressed personal life.”

According to Lickfett, three changes to consider right away are:

  • There are no silly questions. We need to be able to have people around us who dare to ask fundamental questions, no matter how trivial or silly they may seem. What are you trying to achieve? Are you sure the customer cares? What other solution is there for the customers’ needs? Asking the right questions is a leadership skill and underrated superpower.
  • Ask for help. It is challenging to keep multiple contradicting ideas in your head at the same time and be truly creative. Few can do it alone, so you should ask for help from organizations like Vistage or Entrepreneurs’ Organization, professional coaches, mentors or colleagues. The help of others is essential to gain perspective and find novel solutions.
  • Take time for deep work and creativity. The pseudo-productivity of face time and “looking busy” are running out. If you do not want the large and powerful shifts in the world to negatively affect your job or company, you need to maintain an edge by deep thinking, being creative and solving core problems. Though this can take a serious amount of time, it is a worthwhile investment.
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