Originally written for Hacker Noon on Medium.
How one word can make all the difference
Why very well might be the most powerful word in the world.
Look around; it’s not hard to see that power on display.
At SpaceX, they asked why rockets couldn’t be made at a fraction of the cost.
With Amazon, Jeff Bezos couldn’t stop asking himself why books ( and later everything ) had to be sold in physical stores.
Lyft saw that cars sat idle most of the time and asked why there wasn’t a better way to use that inventory while making the world’s transportation infrastructure more effective.
Perhaps no person in modern history was more fanatical about asking why than Steve Jobs.
Jobs and Apple, by extension, were fanatical about asking why things had to be as they were. Why phones couldn’t be used for more than making calls, why computers had to be beige and user-unfriendly, and why an office park couldn’t be beautiful, functional and a part of the natural landscape.
All around us are the success stories that began when someone asked why and kept asking why.
So what is stopping you from asking why?
It’s not happening enough
A friend of mine has been consulting for one of the world’s large financial institutions. In a recent meeting with executives to understand the effectiveness of recent marketing efforts, he listened patiently to a run-down of the current campaigns. Then, when it was his turn to speak, he asked a version of why.
Why those targets? Why that spend? Why that creative? Why that messaging? Why, why, why.
Not one person in the room had an answer to why. So this major, world recognizable brand was basing their efforts on some mix of ‘that’s the way it’s been done’ and ‘if we don’t question, we won’t be held accountable.’
While that may be surprising to a few of you, it’s not to some of us.
Almost daily, I come across organizations content with the status quo. Happy to plod along in the direction they’ve always travelled because doing more would mean asking why and they either are too scared to look foolish or too afraid of what answers they may get in return.
Does this sound like the way to find wild success?
So What Can You Do
In a world of people afraid of why it’s not hard to stand out and start making a difference.
This isn’t an excuse to act like a petulant child, screaming why, why, why and stomping your feet until you get answers.
Start by delving deeper into the history and backstory involved in whatever initiative it is involved with.
How did it get to this point?
Where did the need for this product / solution / campaign / activation come from?
Who is the solution really for, and what are their needs?
Is there a better way to accomplish what we’ve been trying to do?
No, those questions don’t all start with why, but they will help you get to the root of the greater why, and from there, your purpose will become much more evident.
Beyond that, but every decision through the same rigour. Ensuring that you know why you’re making the decisions you are and that they match the greater why ( the purpose ) of what you’re doing.
If you’d like a primer on how to do this even more effectively, might I suggest you take a read of the book “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek. A fantastic read from one of the great thinkers of our day when it comes to the motivations of why we as consumers and producers do what we do. Find more info here: https://startwithwhy.com/