Ask Why

792. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I’ve heard this phrase several times in the past few months: What you put your mind on grows. If I think there is a monster under my bed I will listen for the monster’s movements. The monster will get bigger every night. This morning Elizabeth and I had a great conversation about what happens when we micro-focus on the one thing that’s not working. You know the story: the micro-focus overwhelms everything else. The gold is invisible when the speck dominates the focus. A single mosquito buzzing in your ear can make all of nature invisible.

Recently I’ve been sitting in on Skip’s Design for Demand course. It’s an MBA course in the Human Centered Design track. The students are examining online learning platforms to improve the design of each platform. They are having a difficult time breaking through the superficial to see the essential. The speck on their gold is the assumption that the purpose of education is to get a job. “What are you going to do with this?” is confused with “Why do this?”

Simon Sinek reminds us that at the center of every successful venture (adventure) is the question, “Why?” Why are we doing this? Why must precede What and How. It is simple: What and How carry no meaning. To focus on the result with no consideration of the reason is an empty pursuit. “To get a job” is a result. “To make money” is a result. “To raise test scores” is a result. Assuming that the purpose of education is to get a better job or to micro-focus on raising test scores is to design an empty pursuit. It is a fool’s errand.

If you don’t get a job is your education meaningless? If you get a job but have nothing to bring to it are you worth hiring?

For a brief moment the MBA students shifted their focus and rightly identified that a major obstacle in online learning platforms is that they are designed for consumption and not for engagement. Learning is not consumption. Information exchange is not learning. Learning IS engagement! Some fresh air blew through the room. They sat up! They glimpsed a bit of information that might lead them to meaningful design! And then someone asked, “How will employers know…?” They slumped and began looking for data to consume. They discussed how they might get people to care. Their conversation was once again trapped in the What and the How.

They were so close and then the monster under the bed retook their focus.

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