The power of "why?"

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth


Christopher Murphy, writing for Multidisciplinary Design on “human resource”:

It’s no wonder monolithic businesses often fail. They grow and, in so doing, lose sight of what matters; people become humans and, in that subtle, but important semantic shift the people – the passionate individuals who drove the business forward, who gave it its lifeblood – become disillusioned and leave. The business, however, moves on, like a giant machine, unable to comprehend the significance of what it just lost, unable to understand the consequences of its now mindless actions.

Here’s a thought: this shift often coincides with a business losing its strong sense of “why?” Why does it exist? Once, that would have been to “do a great job of providing X”, where X is their line of business. At some point, the answer becomes something between “to continue existing” and “to provide stable income for senior management”.

Humans are very motivated by “why?” – they are very unmotivated by those other questions. Never underestimate the power of “why?”.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.