“Dare to be naïve” — Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) Inventor, designer, and futurist
I’m currently helping a client improve marketing and customer service business processes. Among other methods, we’re gathering internal and external data using the “5 why’s” exercise (see below). We drill down to the core purpose of each process by asking a succession of “why’s?” The president of the firm, a self-professed “control freak” has affectionately named the process, “Listening Sessions.” “I’m finally starting to realize that other people’s ideas are often much better than mine,” he recently reflected with good humor, “I wish it hadn’t taken me 50 years to figure out how to shut up and listen.”
In the grand scheme of things, you don’t know that much. In and of itself, this isn’t a bad thing – it’s human. No one knows that much. However, you get into trouble when you pretend to know more than you do – when you try to look sophisticated. You never really fool anyone. You just look phony. How boring. Embrace your ignorance. Have more fun. Learn more.
5 why’s exercise:
1. Identify an issue with which you’re currently struggling (e.g. I need to let this person go, I need to increase the sales on this product).
2. Form it into a “why” question (e.g. why haven’t I let this person go yet?, why do we have trouble selling this product?)
3. Brainstorm answers with others (inside and outside your organization).
4. For each answer ask another why question (e.g. we have trouble selling this product because the price point is too high – leads to – why have we kept the price point so high?)
5. Continue this process until you’ve asked (and satisfactorily answered) at least 5 why’s.
6. Obvious answers are often the easiest to miss.