Critical thinking — five why’s to the rescue

Have you been asked to create a report? Did you make a report? Did you stop and ask why the report is needed? What is the information that this report is trying to answer?

When thinking critically, we need to distinguish between causes vs. consequences.

In our report example, the requester might be looking for answers to a consequence rather than a cause.

If we solve mainly for consequences, other consequences are likely to show up, and we’ll inevitably continue down a cycle of process improvements that mask the real problem.

One tool to help you think critically and help you surface causes is the five why’s.

Imagine the report was about the number of people leaving a group within the last six months.

You have the info and can have the report ready in minutes, but if you asked, “why is this report helpful?” You might uncover that they were looking to determine the reasons for their departures to gauge if we have leadership, process, or compensation problem.

Asking why already uncovered deeper needs, getting you closer to a root cause.

You can continue asking why until you have surfaced the root cause.

Your report can be more practical and help fix the cause rather than the symptoms.