Sept 26th write up – Wèishéme (Why)

For those who don’t know, I’ve been overseas the last few months – mostly in Shanghai. Being in a new city with such a different culture to my own (even my adopted cultures), I found I was constantly asking ‘why’ on a very regular basis.

I was taking mandarin classes learning how to ask ‘what’ and ‘where’ but what I really wanted was to ask ‘why’. I kept seeing all sorts of scenarios where I wanted to ask ‘why’! For example, why do some foods need to be wrapped in layer upon layer of plastic wrap when meat was available for sale unrefridgerated on a cardboard table?

Although even after I learned the word for ‘why’ – wèishéme – I knew I wouldn’t be able to understand the answers (my mandarin has improved but it’s very much a work in progress!). I became a little obsessed with wèishéme and it got me thinking about asking the question in product management.

Whether we’re talking with a customer or end user, determining which feature to build next or how to market our product, understanding the ‘why’ is needed to help us connect, make our products great and create success. Understanding ‘why’ uncovers the value and explains why we care, what the context is, influences us and focuses on the problem (not the solution).

We can integrate ‘why’ into our existing tools like positioning statements, interviews & research, and even agile stories.

Some of the references include:

Simon Sinek’s ‘Start with Why’ TED talk & the golden circle

Bill DeRouchey’s ‘Power of Why’ deck on slideshare

Steve Portigal’s Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights

I’d also recommend The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. It didn’t make it into the deck but is an excellent read.

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