In my experience, learning usually includes the following phases:
- Asking a question or questions, which sends me on a search for
- Investigating and information gathering, which generates ideas for
- Experimenting or prototyping, which demands observation leading to
- Reflecting, which leads to more questions . . . .
The Five Whys is simple method used by organizations as diverse as IDEO and Toyota to refine the first step of asking questions. Simply repeat the question, “Why?” in response to five consecutive answers. The simple question leads to a better understanding the root issues that provoke thinking, behavior, and ideas. It has the potential to make the entire learning process more efficient and effective.
When dealing with an increasingly complex world, going back to the simple question I asked as a child has been helpful. It has challenged me to be more honest and transparent, and has opened new possibilities and directions for investigation.