Why? is the most powerful question you can ask during the critical thinking process. Asking why results in answers that provide us with knowledge, thereby giving us choices, and as Sir Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power.” Knowledge lets us be more creative, solve problems, and make better decisions.
For example, let's say that someone asks you to move all the furniture in one room to another. You might ask, “Why?” and discover the carpets are getting cleaned tomorrow. Once you know this, you would make sure to move the furniture to a room without a carpet.
For a more complex example of why, imagine you're in a meeting to discuss making a particular process faster. You might typically create a process flow diagram and then discuss how you could eliminate or streamline some of the steps. This would certainly lead to a faster process, but imagine if you asked, “Why do we want to speed up this process?” That conversation might lead you to discover that the real objective is to ensure timely delivery of products to your customers. This knowledge might prompt you to suggest—in addition to speeding up delivery with this faster process—you can make a huge difference by looking at how you forecast product demand so that you know what to make in advance.
In this chapter, we'll cover four reasons why we ask why. But before we get into that, we need to look at what happens when you ask why. Let's say your manager asks you for a report or information on a project and you ...