Ask Why?

W5T Logo OnlyWhy? Such a forceful word.  Spoken by a boss it can be scary or empowering.  From a direct report encouraging or depressing.  From a 3-year-old delightful until it becomes maddening.

The power behind “why” reflects our basic need to understand.  Nail “why” and you are beginning on a solid path.   It could for be a grand strategy, a complex project or a simple explanation on the need to keep the fridge closed.

Sometimes we stop asking why – too busy, too lazy, too complacent, too arrogant.  When this happens, we often make bad assumptions.  The result ranges from acceptable to catastrophic.

By asking why someone would spend money on our product or service over another’s, we identify how our brand, company or offering is better.  We clarify how we address a consumer insight.

By asking our boss why, we understand the true need and come up with a superior way of tackling the task at hand.  It helps us appreciate the specific business needs more accurately and bring our creative thinking to the true need.

By asking a direct report why, we discover a previously unknown barrier, personal or professional, a hidden talent or a desire for new growth opportunities.

Now let’s turn it around.  Anticipate the question why.  It’s the key to enlisting others to support you, to convincing your boss or investors, to rallying a project team or perhaps to understanding your own motivations.

Answer the question even before it’s asked.  Be clear.  Encourage clarification.  You build understanding and strengthen your relationship.

When you have done a good job of anticipating, it makes answering “why” easy and compelling.  Not only have you done your own due diligence in framing and thinking through the issue at hand, you can articulate it to others and enlist them in your cause – launching a new product, getting investment, or maybe simply clearing the kitchen table.

So go ahead.  Be curious.  Ask (and say) why.

Pamela approaches marketing with particular focus on strategy, innovation and new item introduction. She has Fortune 500 brand and agency experience across both consumer products and services industries. Respected as a collaborative problem solver, Pamela has a knack for improving process as she navigates the ups and downs of seeing strategy and projects bear fruit. Pamela hails from Asheville, NC and is a graduate of Williams College and the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina.

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