Asking the “Big Why”

I have experienced many times during visual ideation sessions with stakeholders, that most executives can answer the basic questions of What, How, When, Where and even Who, but when confronted with what I call the “Big Why”, most stop cold in their tracks. In some cases, one of the stakeholders might quote their Vision statement or even their Mission statement in hopes that this will fulfill the “Big Why.” Not really the best response.

What do you ask, is a “Big Why” and my reasons for asking? That’s pretty simple to answer. It’s asking 2 key “Why” questions; “Why are you here today?” and “Why do you do what you do?” The purpose of these two types of questions is to uncover some deeper, more meaningful  and underlying answers. To strike deep into the core of the brand or culture of an organization and find out what is driving the machine and where it maybe heading.

Why are you here? What reasons can you give that can clarify why your organization wants or needs to change. Yes, I said change. You see, no company or group of people change uniformly or even willingly. It goes against human nature to desire change and to act on it. So when I ask groups why they are here, it provokes the emotional response that can not be answered very easily without exploration.

As for the second Big Why; why do you do what you do? It’s about uncovering what drives the organization. Is there passion in what they do. Is there a cause that the organization believes in and stands for, if not, then the change that maybe needed is to discover their direction, passion and/or purpose. This discovery in itself can trigger the beginning of change.

So the next time you have a management meeting, brainstorm about a new product or service, plan the next year’s strategy or simple sit down together and chat about the organization, ask the “Big Whys” and see where your organization stands and then you can begin change.

If you want to know more about the power of Why, then watch this piece on Simon Sinek and his lecture on “Start with Why” and how great leaders avoid begin with what and start with why.

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