The Power of WHY in the workplace !

Add a “why” to the “what” and the “how” and go from 60 to 94% of adhesion

In the early years of its life, a child asks many questions to his/her entourage and among these, the question “why” is king. When a parent is available, he/she often takes time to listen to the questions of the child and provide a suitable explanation. But when he/she is less available or upset by something else, it often ends with a “because.”

The child then goes away frustrated by the unanswered question and performs the task without conviction, or, if I can say, without knowing “why” it is important.

What if it was similar in the workplace ?
The study known as « The Copy Machine » (source) of Ellen Langer from Harvard University, covers our needs to have a reason to agree to do something.

The simplified result of the study could be described as:

  1. Do what someone asks me to do = NO
  2. Do what someone asks me to do + WHY = YES

The number of positive responses is impacted by the anticipated level of effort of the subject to complete the task. The table below shows the number of positive responses the testers got. The test was conducted in the photocopy service queue of the library of a university in New York.

Wording of the request 5 pages to copy 20 pages to copy
Excuse me, can I use the copy machine? 60% 24%
Excuse me, can I use the copy machine,
I have copies de make?
93% 24%
Excuse me, can I use the copy machine,
I’m in a hurry ?
94% 42%

This study is just one of many that highlight the importance of explaining the “why”.
Yet if we were going for a ride in companies, employees know very rarely “why” the company was founded, and why their jobs are so important to the success of the latter.

What about your workplace and company, do you get and give the WHY ?