Asking “why” seems to be innate.
As soon as kids learn to speak, the inquisitions begin. The first few whys may emerge from innocent curiosity, but it’s easy to tell when the game is underway.
It’s easy to see how endless whys may lead to frustration (especially when it’s bed time, eh), but I’ve found joy in making these winding whys into a fun challenge for myself. Instead of shutting things down, I enjoy trying to quickly answer every why with an accurate answer. Can I mindfully outlast the youngster’s attention span? What fun!
I’ve enjoyed winding whys many times, but “Dad, why do you love me?” gave me pause. I found myself feeling appreciative as I tried to coalesce endless reasons into one answer.
As I poked around, it felt trite to reflect on how humans have so many whys we can not answer. Instead of going down the paradoxical path or leaning into understanding our own whys, I found the Five whys interesting.
Developed by system thinkers inside Toyota back in the 1980’s, this iterative Five whys technique was used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. When following 14 specific rules, after exactly five whys, the last answer often points to a process that is not working well or does not exist. This rigid technique has critics and would seemingly lead to shortsighted interpretations, but it was fun learning about this historic use of why. Knowing the value of complexity vs. simplification, as well as, so many other methods like active listening, Socratic questioning, casual diagrams, storytelling, inverse charisma, and pure wonder, the Five whys may not answer all the winding whys of our world, but perhaps it’s another tactic to throw in the mix.