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Ask "Why" more than you ask "What" or "How"?


In the dynamic worlds of technology and business, the allure of quick fixes often overshadows the need for deep understanding. But the key to lasting solutions lies not just in identifying 'what' the problem is but in uncovering 'why' it exists. This is especially critical for leaders and senior team members who are responsible for defining the strategy and future direction of teams/organizations.

Leader's responibility

As a leader or a senior team member, you may often find yourself in situations where you have to solve complex problems, make strategic decisions, or guide your team towards a common goal. In these scenarios, it is tempting to focus on the 'what' and the 'how' of the problem: what are the symptoms, what are the possible solutions, how can we implement them, how can we measure the results, etc.

But while these questions are important, they are not enough(and in many cases, they are simply inadeuqate and irrelavant). They may lead you to superficial answers, quick fixes, or band-aid solutions that do not address the root cause of the problem. They may also limit your creativity, innovation, and learning potential by confining you to the existing paradigms and assumptions.

This is why we believe you need to ask 'why' more than you ask 'what' or 'how'.


  • Asking 'why' helps you to challenge the status quo - to question the conventional wisdom, and to explore new possibilities.
  • Asking 'why' helps you to develop a first-principles thinking approach, which is the art of reasoning from fundamental truths rather than from analogies or heuristics.
  • Asking 'why' helps you to dig deeper into the problem - to understand its underlying causes, drivers, and motivations. This is very important because it allows you to solve problems that are actually worth solving, rather than just solving the symptoms of a problem.

In summary, asking 'why' is a powerful technique towards innovation, sustainable solutions, and continuous learning.

How to Ask 'Why' Effectively

Asking 'why' is not as simple as it sounds. It requires curiosity, humility, and courage. Sometimes the answers may be uncomfortable or inconvenient, but it is important to always look at the bigger picture and to keep an open mind. At times the answer might come from lower levels of the organization, or from your competitors In these cases, it is important to listen actively and empathetically, and to be open to challenge your own views.

Here are some tips on how to ask 'why' effectively:

  • Start with a clear and specific problem statement. Define what the problem is, who it affects, and what are the desired outcomes.
  • Ask 'why' at least five times. This is a technique popularized by Toyota, which helps you to drill down to the core of the problem.
    • For each answer you get, ask 'why' again until you reach a fundamental cause that cannot be further reduced.
  • Avoid jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. Instead of accepting the first answer that comes to your mind, test it with evidence and logic.
    • Ask yourself: how do I know this is true? What are the alternative explanations? What are the implications of this answer?
  • Seek diverse perspectives and feedback. Don't rely on your own knowledge and experience alone.
    • Consult with experts, stakeholders, customers, and peers who may have different insights and opinions on the problem.
    • Listen actively and empathetically, and be open to challenge your own views(note that this can be hard - practice makes perfect!)
  • Synthesize your findings and communicate them clearly.
    • You should be able to summarize your findings in a coherent and convincing way, and share them with your team or organization.
    • If working in a team, make sure everyone understands the problem and the proposed solution(s). This will reduce the risk of unnecessary conflicts and mistakes down the road.


This methods is not only applicable to business and technology, but also to other areas of life such as personal development, relationships, and health. Finding they 'why' behind your actions can help you to make better decisions, and to live a more meaningful life.

Asking 'why' is a powerful tool that can help you solve problems from first principles, and ask the right questions. By asking 'why' more than you ask 'what' or 'how', you can deepen your understanding of the problem, challenge your assumptions, explore new possibilities, and communicate your findings clearly. This can lead to better solutions, greater learning, and higher satisfaction for you and your team/organization.