Advertising
Advertising

Published on February 2, 2018

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.

    Advertising

    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.

        Advertising

          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.

            Advertising

            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?

                  Advertising

                    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

                    More by this author

                    Dr. Jamie Schwandt

                    Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

                    9 Game Changing Tips on How to Write Goals (and Reach Them!) Creative Brain Test: 10 Best Ways To Test Your Creative Intelligence How to Be a Maverick and Develop a Maverick Mindset Being Self Aware Is the Key to Success: How to Boost Self Awareness How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills for a Sharper Mind

                    Trending in Smartcut

                    1 How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive 2 11 Google Chrome Apps and Features to Help You Get More Done with Less Effort 3 15 Productive Things to Do When You Have Extra Downtime 4 Seriously Stressing Out? The Complete Guide to Eliminate Work Stress 5 How to Make Changes to Your Life by Changing Your Habits

                    Read Next

                    Advertising
                    Advertising

                    Last Updated on September 17, 2018

                    How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

                    How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

                    Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

                    Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

                    All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

                    Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

                    How bad really is multitasking?

                    It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

                    Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

                    This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

                    Advertising

                    We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

                    So what to do about it?

                    Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

                    Now, forget about how to multitask!

                    Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

                    1. Get enough rest

                    When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

                    This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

                    When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

                    Advertising

                    2. Plan your day

                    When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

                    When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

                    Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

                    3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

                    I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

                    I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

                    Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

                    4. When at your desk, do work

                    We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

                    Advertising

                    Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

                    5. Learn to say no

                    Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

                    Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

                    By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

                    6. Turn off notifications on your computer

                    For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

                    Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

                    7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

                    Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

                    Advertising

                    You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

                    The bottom line

                    Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

                    Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

                    Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

                    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                    Read Next