The Power of ‘Why?’

Why can one little word make people either supremely uncomfortable or elated? Why can this word build or break consensus to an idea or a plan? Why?

I like to ask why.

This simple word, when used at the right time, can disrupt status quo and spark new ways of thinking. This single word can be subversive and, at times, downright volatile. This one little word can change hearts, minds and, perhaps, even the world?

All too often in business and communications, a strategy is put into action without anyone questioning its wisdom or the course of action. The project moves forward because “the boss said so” or “because that’s what we did last time” or “because the client said so.” Never mind that none of these reasons have any basis in strategy.

Being committed to taking a strategic approach demands that everyone involved question authority, question motives and actions, and question the fruit of the team’s labors. A sound communications strategy needs someone (you?) to play the devil’s advocate every step of the way:

1. Before a campaign. Ask why the action is even being considered, assess the true problem or challenge, and assess risks and rewards of the proposed campaign.

2. During a campaign. Cast aside personal agendas and care solely for the successful outcome of the campaign. When you do this, the alignment of target and action become relatively simple.

3. After a campaign. Do a postmortem that questions why a campaign was successful or unsuccessful, so that your organization can learn and refine for the future.

Why wouldn’t you want to question the world around you when the campaign you care so much about hangs in the balance?

Look, I get it. There are always a million reasons not to ask why. Disrupting the flow isn’t easy. But not asking why can be ever more troublesome — it can be the difference between just doing something and doing the right thing.