Why asking 'Why' is vital to success

Often clients come to us with a project brief, full of fascinating and well thought out solutions, ideas or product details and features.

This is genuinely awesome! They clearly know their product, website or company.

But... (yes, theres always a but, I cannot lie). Often, these are not mapped to simple user insight, audience understanding or knowledge of their customers needs from their new fascinating idea. There's a bunch load of features or systems or even the business goal in itself, but no one in the organisation has considered why? Why do we need to do this?

Not 'what will it give us if we do it' - thats slightly different. But WHY do we need to do this in the first place?

I wrote another article on understanding users previously, so won't go into that, but will tell you a couple of stories.

Settle down.

Get a cuppa. Let me tell you about Mike and Richard.

Post It Notes

Mike

Now I'm sure Mike will be ok with me saying this. He's 300 miles away from where I am now, so if I type quietly, maybe he won't hear...

Several years ago I worked with Mike for a number of years. A talented designer, who always, without fail, in any meeting internally or externally with our team or with a client, would ask 'why' at some point in the meeting, in fact, often at several points.

Occasionally it got Mike into a frosty discussion with a defensive client or a business owner who didn't like to be challenged or have to explain themselves, but I learnt from Mike one valuable lesson. Never assume anything, and always ask 'why'.

We had the odd moments when clients would call or email me to suggest they weren't too happy with Mike's approach, and we of course stood by Mike and amicably tried to calm the client down.

But you know what? I never asked Mike to stop challenging clients.

Why? Because it worked. It caused clients to think, to feel challenged - that's good! That's what you pay us for. We're not design monkeys who do everything you tell us to - if that's what you want then we're not the best fit for you. We're here to challenge you - to ask 'why', even if the answer is obvious. It helps you communicate your rationale, your ideas, and helps it come alive to us, as we capture your passion behind it.

Richard

There's this other guy that I don't know, but he goes by the name Richard Branson. Some of you might have come across him. He used to sell records, now he sells tickets into space.

In one of his books, Branson recalls one of his traits in his early days, something that sits in line with why Mike asked 'why'. He talks about a scenario in one of his meetings with his team when he was embarking on the new venture which is now a global machine in Virgin Airlines.

In a meeting, his colleagues were explaining what they were going to do, how something worked and the details around it. Branson built up a trait in meetings to always ask what someone meant - can you explain it to me in simple terms - often already knowing what it meant. His reasons were based on 'if you're not sure, ask' and never being afraid to clarify what something means.

Similarly with Mike, often we can assume as a company that we know 'why' a company is asking for a design style, a new feature or function to what we're building, but asking why allows both us to be certain, and the business owner to be clear with their 'why'.

We'll always challenge our clients - it's not because we don't agree, it's because we want to get into your heads and believe in it as much as you do, and why we're doing something amazing together.

Can we write a story with you?

Red Bullet has been one of Kent's most successful digital agencies since 2006. We work with SMEs, large corporates and household brands in making better user experiences through digital.