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Razor-Sharp Thinking: the What-Why Method

Razor-Sharp Thinking: the What-Why Method

Charles Mingus once said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” As a society, we typically make the complicated commonplace. This is particularly true in regards to problem-solving as we add to the puzzle of complexity daily. My proposal is to introduce a new method combining elements from two simple (yet powerful) techniques to create an awesomely simple, yet effective problem-solving and explanation method.

First, Terry Borton’s Development Framework (What – So What – Now What) as the logical explanation tool. Second, the 5-Why technique used in root-cause analysis (RCA) as the simple problem-solving tool. Using Occam’s razor as my underlying principle, I propose a new method called the What–Why Method.

Crazy Simple!

    Using the military as an example, we find that numerous problem-solving methods exist within the U.S. military. In the U.S. Army alone, we have a smorgasbord of options to select from. From the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP) to the Army Design Methodology (ADM) to Lean Six Sigma (LSS), we are not short on options. However, if we follow the philosophy of Occam’s razor, we will find that we can slice through the clutter and identify one simple method.

    Suppose you have two possible explanations for a problem, Occam’s razor demonstrates that the simplest option is typically the best option.[1] Occam’s razor has two parts which serve as the underlying principle of my What-Why Method.

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    1. The Principle of Plurality. Plurality should not be assumed as a fact without necessity.
    2. The Principle of Parsimony. The scientific principle that things are typically connected or behave in the simplest way.

    What – So What – Now What

      Developed in 1970 by Terry Borton, Borton’s Development Framework provides us a straightforward and easy to understand approach to anything.[2] This simple framework involves only three questions, which can easily explain any concept. The questions follow the concept of Reflective Practice, which is the ability to reflect on your actions to engage in the process of learning.[3] Reflective Practice holds three components: Experiences (what happened to you?), Reflective Process (what enables you to learn from the experience?), and Action (what new perspective do you now possess as a result of your reflection?). Borton’s Development Framework possesses the following three questions:

      1. What? The experience.
      2. So What? Analysis of reflection or process of reflection.
      3. Now What? Synthesis and new perspectives from reflection. This is where you determine what to do next and what your next action will be.

      5-Why Technique

        Metaphorically speaking, if we want to kill a weed, we must first find the root. A root-cause is a factor causing nonconformance and should be permanently eliminated. The root-cause is essentially “the evil at the bottom” that sets things in motion causing the problem.[4] Let’s quickly look at the structure of a problem and break down the definition of root-cause via Asq.org.

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          Root-Cause Defined

          • A factor that caused a nonconformance and should be permanently eliminated.
          • A factor that influences a result or outcome.
          • Must be completely eliminated or removed.

          Let’s now turn our attention to root-cause analysis (RCA). RCA is a collective term describing a wide range of approaches and techniques utilized to discover root-causes of problems. The 5-Why technique is one in which we were all experts at when we were children. Essentially, the 5-Why technique is an iterative interrogative technique used to determine the root-cause of a problem by repeatedly asking the question “Why?” The technique was formally developed by Taiichi Ohno and was highly utilized at Toyota. Furthermore, the “5” in the name comes from an anecdotal observation on the number of iterations needed to resolve a problem.

          Simple Approach for Thinking

            By using my What-Why Method, we also find that we are able to move through Blooms Classification of Thought Process (otherwise known as Blooms Taxonomy), where we can quickly understand and describe a problem or topic. Additionally, my method takes us through the Hierarchy of Learning along with Blooms Taxonomy.

            When we bring it all together, we find that we now have a way to quickly solve a problem and quickly present or brief information. It also offers us a way to logically and easily categorize and present information, especially if we are posed with a difficult and impromptu question.

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            Easily Explain Anything

              Let’s see how my method works using an example from the foster care system (visit my website for more information on the foster care system). By moving through the questions in the image above (What-Why Method), let’s see what we uncover.

              What?

                So What?

                  Now What?

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                    Lastly, John Driscoll matched Borton’s three questions to the stages of the experiential learning cycle and added trigger questions.[5] By linking trigger questions to Borton’s framework, we are able to produce a clear description of the event, an analysis of the event (critical thinking), and synthesis of the event (creative thinking). Combining the What – So What – Now What framework with the 5-Why technique essentially creates the simplest form of problem-solving in existence. As Wilfred A. Peterson said,

                    See it big and keep it simple.

                    Using the What-Why Method allows us to just that… See it big, yet keep it very simple!

                    Reference

                    [1] Harold Lambert: How Occam’s Razor Works
                    [2] Physio-Pedia: Borton’s Development Framework
                    [3] Skills You Need: Reflective Practice
                    [4] ASQ: What is Root Cause Analysis
                    [5] Driscoll: Critical Reflection

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                    Dr. Jamie Schwandt

                    Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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                    Last Updated on June 13, 2019

                    15 Best Entrepreneurs Books to Start Reading Now to Be Successful

                    15 Best Entrepreneurs Books to Start Reading Now to Be Successful

                    Knowledge is power, and you’re going to need a lot of it if you’re going to be able to steer your business to success.

                    Without further ado, let’s take a look at the 15 best entrepreneurs books to get inspirations about success and grow your business.

                    1. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

                      This book has been dubbed the Granddaddy of All Motivational Literature, and it was actually the first book that gave a prescription of what it takes to be a winner.

                      Napoleon Hill draws from the stories of millionaires like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and Thomas Edison to illustrate the principles he put forth.

                      Get the book here!

                      2. The Lean Startup by Eric Reis

                        A lot of startups end up failing, but many of these failures are actually avoidable. The Lean Startup provides a different approach that is now being adopted all over the world and changing the way that companies are developed and products are being launched.

                        In The Lean Startup, Eric Reis describes what is required for a company to penetrate the fog of uncertainty in order to discover a path to a sustainable and successful business.

                        Get the book here!

                        3. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

                          In a revised edition of the 150,000-copy bestseller, The E-Myth, Michael Gerber refutes some of the myths that surround starting your own business and shows just how commonplace assumptions can end up getting in the way of being able to run a successful business.

                          Gerber succeeds in walking the reader through the steps that occur in the life of a business, from infancy, through the pains of growing as an adolescent, to the perspective of the mature entrepreneur.

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                          Get the book here!

                          4. Rework by Jason Fried

                            Most of the business books that you get today will give you the same advice: draft a business plan, study the competition, look for investors, and all that.

                            However, Rework shows you a more effective, easier and faster means of succeeding when running a business. By reading it, you’ll be able to know why some plans are harmful, why you don’t really need to get investors, and why you’re better of shutting out your competition.

                            Get the book here!

                            5. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

                              This is one of the most successful motivational books in history, selling well over 15 million copies since it was released in 1936. The book is timeless, and it appeals to businesses, self-help startups, and general readers.

                              Carnegie believes that a lot of successes come from an ability to communicate rather than having brilliant insights. In his book, he teaches how to value others and make them feel appreciated and loved.

                              Get the book here!

                              6. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

                                Through this amazing book, Malcolm Gladwell is able to take the reader on an intellectual journey through the world of ‘outliers’. He asks the question of what truly differentiates high-achievers.

                                His answer to this question is that we tend to pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and less attention to where they are actually from.

                                Get the book here!

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                                7. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

                                  This is the best personal finance book ever written. It tells the story of Kiyosaki and his two fathers; his real father, and that of his best friend (his rich dad), as well as how the two men helped him shape his opinions on money and investing.

                                  It refutes the myth that you need to earn high to become rich, and it distinguishes between working for money and having money work for you.

                                  Get the book here!

                                  8. The Ascent of Money: The Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson

                                    Niall Ferguson, in this book, follows the money to tell the story behind the evolution of the word’s financial system, from the beginning way back in ancient Mesopotamia to the latest occurrences in what he had dubbed Planet Finance.

                                    Fergusson also reveals financial history as the backstory behind our very own history, with an argument that the evolution of debt and credit is as significant as the history of technological innovation and the rise of civilization.

                                    Get the book here!

                                    9. Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis

                                      Michael Lewis landed a job at Salomon Brothers after getting out of the London School of Economics and Princeton within three years, he had risen to the rank of bond salesman, making millions for the firm and cashing out steadily.

                                      Liar’s Poker is the amalgamation of these years — a look behind the scenes at one of the most turbulent times in American business. His book is Lewis’s account of an era where greed and gluttony were the order of the day.

                                      Get the book here!

                                      10. Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Michael H. Pink

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                                        A lot of people see money as the best motivator. Michael pink says it’s a mistake.

                                        In this provocative book, he asserts that the secret to high performance anywhere is the need to direct our lives, to learn and create, and to do better by our world and ourselves.

                                        Get the book here!

                                        11. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

                                          Outdated methods don’t work in today’s world. In this book, Allen shares some awesome methods for stress-free performance that he has shared with thousands of people all over the world.

                                          His premise? That productivity is proportional to your ability to relax.

                                          Get the book here!

                                          12. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

                                            In this book, Stephen Covey presents a holistic approach for overcoming both professional and personal issues. With insights and anecdotes, Covey presents a way to live with integrity fairness, service and dignity.

                                            Get the book here!

                                            13. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss

                                              In this book, Ferriss dishes on the tips he has learned from studying the New Rich, a subculture of people who did away with the deferred life plan and mastered time and mobility to developed luxury lifestyles for themselves.

                                              If you’re looking to make your way in this revolutionary new world, this here is your compass.

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                                              Get the book here!

                                              14. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh

                                                The CEO of Zappos shows how a unique kind of corporate identity can help deliver a huge difference in the way results are being achieved — by creating a company that values and delivers happiness.

                                                Get the book here!

                                                15. Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way by Richard Branson

                                                  From Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Records and V2 to Virgin Cola, Virgin Megastores and a wide array of other companies, Richard Branson is the rockstar billionaire that a lot of us want to be.

                                                  Branson, however, did business by following a simple philosophy:

                                                  “Oh, screw it, let’s do it”

                                                  Losing My Virginity is an unusual, borderline outrageous autobiography of one of the greatest business geniuses in the world. Branson and his friends named their business “Virgin” because that was what they were — virgins at the game.

                                                  Since then, he’s written his success rules, creating a global business that has no headquarters, no management structure no corporate identity as it were.

                                                  Get the book here!

                                                  More Inspirations for Entrepreneurs

                                                  Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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