Why? How?

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If you were asked to identify one question that you have asked the most over the course of your life, what would that question be? For me that question would be ‘why?’. This question got me into the most trouble as a kid…and as a teenager, giving me the reputation in our family as being challenging and rebellious. In fact, it wasn’t until I hit my 40s that my parents finally realized that I wasn’t rebelling but truly wanted to know ‘why’; what was the purpose of doing the things I was asked to do.

Just had to know why!
Just had to know why!

I still ask that question, and find that it brings the greatest critical thinking challenges to me as I continue to work in the field of training and development. I also use it often in my coaching practice. However, I’ve added another question…it’s like a follow up question…’how?’

Let me give you an example of some of the questions I’m currently asking regarding my business students.

  • Why do some students choose to come to class only when it’s convenient?
  • Why do so many students struggle with thinking critically?
  • Why do we still get the question ‘will this be on the test?’
  • Why do so many students leave college still not knowing what they want to do with their life?

I believe the first step in responding to these questions is to change the questions…

  • How do we motivate students to choose to come to class even when it’s inconvenient?
  • How do we encourage students to think critically?
  • How do we change the question from ‘will this be on the test?’ to how will I use this in my life and career?
  • How do we help students discover their passion, their personal ‘why?’ in order to enter careers they will enjoy?

When I take this same thinking into the workplace, the follow up ‘how’ questions become:

  • How do we motivate employees to be more engaged…to take more ownership?
  • How do we create environments that encourage critical thinking?
  • How do we help employees connect what they do at work with why they do it?
  • How do we help employees realize their greatest contribution?

What do you think?

Author Daniel Pink believes it has a lot to do with autonomy; you may want to get your hands on his book ‘Drive’. Lots of ‘hmmm moments’ to probe and ponder.

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