Using the 5 Whys to find your Why

Today I participated in a great Social Media Week session run by my colleague Paul Crick.

During the session Paul asked the attendees to define their company’s “Why” with a reference to Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle theory. A theory I’m a big fan of.

However,  it became clear this was much easier said than done. I am familiar with the theory but I also struggled with the “Why” for IBM Interactive.

Most do exactly what Sinek say they do: Define their “What” and some their “How”, but very few their “Why”.

So can we find the “Why” from the “What”?

Maybe we can if we use another “Why” theory:  “The 5 Whys” developed by Sakichi Toyoda at Toyota, which basically boils down to asking “Why?” to a problem statement and through repeatedly questioning the answers, locate the root problem.

Let’s give it a go:

Q: What does IBM Interactive do?
A: Create digital solutions for clients.

Q: Why?
A: To help our clients provide a better digital experience for their customers.

Q: Why?
A:  We believe a better digital experience means happy customers.

Q: Why?
A:  Digital has become a fundamental and expected aspect of  people’s lives.

Q: Why?
A: Digital makes life easier, keeps us more connected and makes us more clever.

The result: IBM Interactive believes in making us (humans) better through digital.

I should say this was a quick exercise I just performed as a tired and fairly new employee of IBM so I might be wrong, but the result does fit with how my colleagues think and talk about digital. They are passionate about enhancing the world with digital.

Give it a go and let me know if it worked for you.

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Share your thoughts

  • Steve Blank and his protoge, Eric Reis talk and write on the “5 whys,” and avoiding the “5 blames,” too.

  • Paul Crick

    Great post Robert and I’d forgotten about the 5 whys. Refining it, try substituting ‘why’ with a better question like ‘for what purpose’ and see how this changes the result. You may be surprised.

  • Good point. This is not a tested theory but one i cooked up yesterday listening to your presentation. It certainly got me thinking about some things.

  • Interesting. Will have a look at that. Can maybe use it to challenge an existing “Why”

  • Paul Crick

    I think the theory is great and ‘has legs’. Answering ‘why’ allows people to bounce in a variety of directions – which is OK and constructive. Answering ‘for what purpose’ digs into people’s metaphors and hence can, at times, be very insightful.

  • very true.

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