Why ask why?

A brainstorming tip to solve problems with questions.

Diana Lillicrap 8.14.2013

I have two young kids who ask me “why?” about everything, all the time. It’s annoying, but I realized that it’s the best way for them to get at real answers—answers that make sense to them, in their terms.

This same approach can be an effective way for adults to get answers too. Here’s a brainstorming tip you can use to solve problems by just asking why.

State your problem

Start by writing out your problem. Be as clear as you can with the language you use. For example, maybe your problem is that “no one visits your website.” Keep it simple and direct.

Ask why five times

Now ask yourself why the problem exists and write out the answer. Follow that answer with another question of why, and so forth until you’ve asked why five times. By the time you are through, you should be at the core of your problem.

Our example would look something like this.

Problem: No one visits our website.

Q1: Why does no one visit your website?
A1: No one knows it exists.

Q2: Why doesn’t anyone know it exists?
A2: We don’t show up on Google searches and we don’t promote it.

Q3: Why not?
A3: We haven’t updated the site in six months.

Q4: Why not?
A4: We have no strategy for keeping it current.

Q5: Why not?
A5: Good question. I guess we need a content strategy if we want people to visit our site.

So the next time you need an answer, be sure to think like a toddler, and ask why, why, and why... Chances are, you’ll eventually get to the root of your real issue.

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