Don't Ask 'Why'

I think at some point most entrepreneurs, consultants and managers find themselves looking at motivational and marketing books, podcasts or videos.

seth godin blair enns tony robbins gurus

Whether you run a business or a department, work with clients, or manage projects, it requires a lot of self-discipline and mental focus, and these thinkers can offer a framework for tackling big problems, setting measurable goals, and staying motivated in the face of setbacks or obstacles.

One of the more useful tips I learned from my studies was to turn 'why' questions (wherever possible) into more specific 'who/what/where/when/how' questions—which is counter to a prevailing trend (for example, 'the five whys' approach).

The reasoning behind this is that most 'why' questions aren't good questions. They're not focused. They don't point you in the right direction because they're usually too broad and fuzzy.

why is the sky blue

As a child, you might have asked 'why is the sky blue?'—but you really wanted to know what made the sky blue, what was causing that?


As a teenager, you might have asked 'why can't I go to the party?', but really you wanted to know, specifically, what condition made your parents say no (so you could counter it)—and the reason for your parents saying no wasn't a why but a what: it was too far, the other kids were unknown (or known!) to them, etc.

This approach is also based on a basic tenet taught to lawyers: spend more time forming a good question and you'll get better, more specific, information back.


So it's not 'Why are sales down?' but:
–  Are sales down across customer sectors or only in specific segments?
–  When did sales start going down? and
–  Did anything change or shift at that time?

growth traffic

Not 'Why is website traffic decreasing?' but:
–  Have we changed something on our site recently? or 
–  Have our referral sources changed? or better yet: 
–  What do our prospects want from our website and are we giving them that?

Better Questions = Better Answers

Taking the time to form more focused questions will point you in a specific direction—and get you actionable information more quickly.