Why is part of a group of interrogative words that ask a question (where, what, how, when, who, why, which, whom, whose). We believe Why is the most powerful one of them all. Let me explain our thoughts...
Most of the others produce a relatively simple answer:
- Where is... Answered with a simple location statement.
- What is... Answered with a description.
- When is... Answered with a time reference.
- Who is... Answered with a name.
- you get my point.
Perhaps the only other one able to challenge Why is How, although it could be argued that How can be answered either correctly or incorrectly, depending on someone's point of view.
Both words elicit a conversation; a discussion and often an argument, but assuming the conversation is carried out amicably, you should end up with an agreement.
However, we believe Why outguns How for the following reasons:
It isn't always needed
You can often generate an answer for something without actually understanding why. Integrals in mathematics are one such instance.
It encourages open-mindedness
In many areas of knowledge you are encouraged to never stop asking questions. Can you imagine if Newton had stopped asking why before developing his theory of gravity? What would the minds at CERN be doing if they weren't constantly asking why?
Simply by asking the question, you are showing open-mindedness and that you are prepared to listen to the thoughts of others. Whilst they may not convince you to change a belief, you are giving them the chance.
It can change your beliefs
This does, of course, assume the debate is amicable. That doesn't mean it cannot become heated and passionate, but you have to be prepared to listen to the point of view of others and allow them to explain themselves fully. Going back to old science examples, I'm fairly certain lots of people asked Why at the point they were challenged on whether our tiny blue planet was the centre of everything or was indeed flat.
It improves stuff
Of course, this is the reason we spend much of our time asking the question. Why is something done the way it is? The answer most commonly connected with that question is something along the lines of "because we've always done it that way". The worrying part is that is may be 20 years of doing it that way before anyone asks the question again.
Question for you
When was the last time you challenged a process in your business?