I work in branding. But more specifically in ‘experience’. What brings you back to your favorite coffee shop time and time again? What website do you love surfing (and why?) what bank did you choose to stay loyal to (and why?) What is the experience you want, expect and need?
At work we get to do a lot of research. We use stats as a starting point and then dig from there. If 3000 people acted in a certain way in one place in one day – we want to know who, where, and most importantly why? A lot of the work I get to be a part of is around social change – motivating people to change their behaviour. So instead of buying something or voting for something or clicking through something on the web we want to understand what drives people and how we can positively impact their decisions with the right information at the right time. I love that part of what i do. Getting to try to understand people a little more. What drives you? what’s most important to you? what music do you like? what are you afraid of? why do you choose that option? when are you happiest? With all those answers we can build a message, on a platform that really speaks to you. But you already know all about this because you are on Facebook and see the eerily targeted ads in your feed, and amazon hunts you down with special deals on what you have been secretly thinking about lately, and even Shoppers Drug Mart reminds you when your favorite shampoo is on sale. Sometimes it goes a little too far. Sometimes we forget to ask “may i please” before we hunt through to understand the why. And that’s not cool. Still – I find the “why?” question very interesting. And never ending.
Which is why i find the questions I get at home so ironic these days. My kids are ‘why’ kids. If you don’t know what I’m talking about – just count yourself lucky and read a different blog post tonight. If you do know what I’m talking about … holy moly… grab a glass of wine and help me out here – how can i possibly answer all these whys?
Today I was asked (insert massive gasp of air here): why asphalt is black, why some drivers are too fast, why some milk jugs are cardboard and others are plastic, why we have to wash our hands so often, why llamas are sheered the way they are, why when one has a cold one’s nose is often full (and a whoooole lotta questions followed that one), why we are ‘sinners’ (learning a new prayer in school), why killer whales are also called orcas, why sharks sometimes eat people, why if my birthday is before daddy’s i am not older than daddy, why dolphins are so smart, and why sleep helps our brains … to name a few. Sometimes I answer “I don’t know” and that is almost the biggest insult I could throw their way. “Just try Mommy! Think! Why?” Like I’m not tuning in to my actual brain and somewhere in the depths of being I am aware of how to answer the question about why farmers take the baby eggs away from chickens for us to eat before they become baby chicks. ahh! I don’t know … and now that you’ve made me think about it – we are no longer eating eggs.
I do admit that I love the “why” question. because with it comes infinite possibility. and often very imaginative answers. Rather than jumping in with the answer, or correcting the wrong, I have started to ask why a little more at home this week …
- to my daughter who can’t seem to count to 10 in order – ‘why does the number 11 come after 6?’.
- To my daughter who you might have heard screaming in our yard yesterday ‘why are you screaming like a banshee?’
- To my son who takes out everything and never puts it away – ‘why do you have all the blankets and pillows in the whole house set up that way?”
It’s crazy. It forces me to slow down. Instead of assuming I know what’s going on and impatiently needing to fix things so that they are right and orderly – the answer to ‘why’ often puts me in a whole different place.
- ‘because there are 6 pieces of treasure and 11 pieces of gold … on Jake (favorite tv show)’
- ‘because I need you to (s)nuggle me. I’m cold and i can’t find my sweater. (and at that I discovered a fever)’
- ‘because I’m making a bridge across the water for explorers searching the sea for blue whales and i don’t want anyone to drown’.
At work I ask ‘why?’. A lot. It’s my job. And it’s cool to see how the answer can completely shift the way we attack a problem. Instead of going at it the way we assume is right – we look at it from a different perspective. At home I don’t make the time to ask why enough – but i will try more now. I love the answers. Sometimes I dread being asked the question – with it comes a conversation I’m seldom prepared for. But that’s the beauty of it I guess. Why? It’s such a good one for putting a whole new perspective on what I thought was right.