The importance of ‘Why?’

We live in a world where we happily search for answers to our internal monologues questions without a second thought via Google. It’s like it’s become an extension of our thought process. Within seconds you could have an answer to that niggling question that you have always wanted an answer to. It’s something so simple that people of all generations are capable of utilising this extension.

But, if asking questions is so simple, why do we struggle to do it face-to-face?

Why do people shy away from posing a question to another human being? Is it that we think our question may be stupid? Is it that we may not like the answer we get to the question? It’s easier to dismiss an answer when it’s displayed on a screen right?

The difference between those that ask questions and those that don’t can be the biggest difference in the knowledge gained. I have recently stumbled across the ‘5 Whys Method‘ coined by Taiichi Ohno while he was working for Toyota. Ohno introduced this method as he believed that by ask the question ‘Why?’ at least 5 times the nature of the problem and it’s solution will become clearer.

Where might this be used?

I work in an industry where a clients end goal may be completely different to the one they originally set out without even knowing it. I’ve been in many meetings before where a client has made it clear as to what they wish to achieve and the brief is set without any further questioning. This is an approach that I believe can lead to the biggest disappointment for the client.

If those with the technical know-how and experience are unable to pose a question to the client to challenge the brief set out then what is that client really paying you for? Just to do what they say or to help them achieve their goals more effectively and efficiently?

By questioning the reasoning behind the decision to action this work you can narrow it down to the real reason the work is being presented to you. An example may be that the client wishes to improve their products page on their website. Rather than saying “Yeah sure we can mock up some ideas and send them over for you to review and you can give us feedback on which ones you like.“, you should be asking the simplest question of “Why?“.

Here is how an ideal discussion should take place:

Client: We wish to improve our products page on our website.

You: Ok, why are you looking to improve this page?

Client: It is part of our marketing strategy to implement for Q3.

You: Why is it important enough to be in your marketing strategy?

Client: Well, we have noticed a slight dip in sales on the website recently and we wish to ensure that it doesn’t become an issue.

You: Why do you think that the sales have dipped?

Client: We have recently introduced a new product range to replace the old range but it doesn’t seem to be as popular.

You: Why did you replace the old range?

Client: Because we felt that this range had become dated and we needed to freshen it up a little.

You: Why didn’t you introduce the new products into the old range at the same time?

Client: We felt a fresh start would have been the better option as it would get the customer to buy the new stuff.

From the simple discussion above I would have been able to find out the following points that would help me to make suggestions to the client. This would not be a simple “Lets redesign the products page“.

  • The client has replaced the old range with the new range. Have they marketed this via any campaigns? e.g. through PPC campaigns.
  • Have the new products been effectively promoted on the rest of the website? Maybe a clearer CTA is required?
  • Has the client thought about continuing the old range as a ‘last seasons’ range as a transition?

These are additional points that not only may lead to a better solution for the client but also potentially more work for you.

So why not ask why when why is so important?