The Power of “Why” – And How It Can Save You From Stupid Mistakes

Figuring out the best way to grow your business can be complicated these days. There are so many tools, tricks and “gurus” out there it’s difficult to decide the best path for you to take.

And as the leader of your business, you set the tone, and help your team with decision-making.

But often, each team member has their “go-to favorite” strategies. Maybe it’s Facebook, or Instagram, or even direct mail. While all of these are great – it’s important that you do your due diligence to make sure it’s great for your business, and it’s not just a strategy executed because “everyone else is doing it”.

So how do you stack the deck in your favor?

Just ask “Why”

I find that young kids are best when it comes to figuring out “what’s best” for them.

“Why are we going to the store now?” (“I would rather play with my friends, so this doesn’t sound like the best use of my time right now.”)

“Why can’t I jump off this cliff into the lake?” (“It sure looks like fun – how bad could it be? It’s only water down there…”)

But seriously – what these amazing little mini humans are doing is simply trying to figure out how the world works – and the best way to figure out how something works (or why it doesn’t work) is to ask, “Why?”.

This method of asking “Why” is so effective it was formally developed by Sakichi Toyoda and used to improve and evolve manufacturing processes of Toyota. This formal process is known as the “5 Whys” and follows an iterative process of asking “Why” to a series of statements and works to get to the root cause of an issue.

For Example

“Our widgets are always 4 weeks behind schedule.”

“Why?”

“Because we have more orders than our manufacturing floor can handle.”

“Why?”

“Because we lack the equipment to ramp up production.”

“Why?”

“Because we didn’t have the budget to buy more equipment.”

“Why?”

“Because we didn’t have the sales to support additional equipment purchases.”

“Why?”

“Because our sales force wasn’t selling effectively.”

In this simplified example it seems as though the final issue brings you back to the start – and since sales is now doing its job, it may be time to revisit the budgets for the equipment needed to keep up with the sales growth – and hopefully get your widget production back on track.

But even if your business has nothing to do with manufacturing, asking “Why” is an effective way of making sure you’re on the right track. And it’s even better when you encourage your team to ask “Why” as well.

For example.

“We need to advertise on Facebook.”

“Why?”

“Because our competitors are on Facebook.”

“Why?”

“Because they believe their customers are on Facebook.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why?”

“Because I really haven’t thought about it past the fact that ‘Everyone else is doing it.'”

In this example, asking “Why” gets to the final questions of “Do we really need to advertise on Facebook? Are our customers really there? Is it more effective than another advertising platform?”. Obviously, based on the questions above, more research is needed before any advertising dollars should be spent.

Asking “why” is an important skill to not just have for yourself – but it’s important to cultivate within your team.

Sometimes, asking “why” could be seen as confrontational, so you want to make sure that before you start using a strategy of constant questioning, you’re clear with your team that it’s not because they have to take a hard stance and defend their position – it’s simply an exercise to make sure that their suggestions are the best course of action.

And this process shouldn’t start at the top. Each member of your team should be constantly asking themselves “why” – even when they’re figuring something out on their own.

“I just watched a great video on using YouTube for marketing – we should test it out.”

“Why?”

“Hmmmm – I’m not sure – the video seemed cool, but maybe I should dig deeper into how long it would take to build a YouTube channel, whether our audience is there, and whether or not there’s a better way.”

In this example, having been trained to question their ideas doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t move forward – it just helps them focus on why they’re doing something – not just “because it’s cool”.

So don’t be afraid to ask “Why” – and don’t be afraid to hear it either. Whether the question is being asked by a 5-year-old or a 25-year-old, digging in and finding out the answer to “Why” will help make sure you have all of the information at hand when you make a decision.