Little children are not afraid to ask, “Why?”  Why is the sky blue, why do I have to eat broccoli…and the list goes on and on. In contrast, big corporations and organizations seem to be afraid of the “why” question preferring to focus on the “what” and even the “how.”  Here is what our products do, here are what our programs and services are, and here is how our system works. But don’t ask them why they matter. Or why they offer their products.  Or why they keep their customers on hold for minutes or why you can’t talk to a live person or why they raised their costs. You may get a blank stare or the run-around.

As strategist Simon Sinek and others point out, “why?” is THE single question we should be asking. And yet it isn’t asked often enough.

“Why?” is threatening and scary because it means that you will have take a hard look at what you are doing.  And you may not like the answer. “Why?” is hard work. “Why?” is challenging.  “Why?” often leads to more questions not finite answers.  But for those who dare ask “why?” and its corollary “why not?” the rewards are great.

Why Ask Why?

The “why-ers” are the innovators, the inventors and the creators.  They are also our novelists and poets.  And they are also our most effective CEOs because they are not satisfied with the status quo.  “Why?” pushes you into the unknown, the uncomfortable, and the unchartered.  And these are the places where breakthroughs happen.

So let’s not be afraid to ask, “Why?” It may be the most important question you ever ask.