Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should

Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could,
they didn’t stop to think if they should.
- Dr. Ian Malcom, Jurassic Park

We all need to learn new things and grow our capacity to do our work better. Having multiple ways to approach a problem means you aren't married to a single solution for everything you face.

But all too often the why gets lost. Sure you can move to a headless CMS. But under what circumstances does that make sense? When should you make the switch? You could get the latest design tool. But will it help you create better designs or communicate with stakeholders more effectively? Beware of shiny object syndrome!

There are considerations beyond the technology and skills. Things like budget, time, other people's skills, and organizational culture all determine whether a piece of hardware or software will be effective. When you stop to consider how a new skill or software will be a good solution, ask yourself--and those around you--what the problem is. Literally. Have a meeting (yes, I know!) with the people who would be affected by the change (or at least the heads of the teams that will be affected) and develop a problem statement. Then walk through the steps to solve it. Only if you end up with the new thing as the solution should you proceed.

Wherever you end up, it will not be a straight line from here to there. There will be adjustments to processes and workflows. Some people may need to develop new skills. You might even need to hire someone. Budgets may need to be shifted to solve the problem. Or you may find that you save money because you do not need to purchase new software and hire partners to set it up. What could you do with that unexpected cash?

Asking WHY is one of the most important questions you'll ever ask. And you should do it frequently. Ask until you get to the root reason for something. I did the "5 Whys" activity in a recent workshop. I provided the statement "Content is inefficient" and asked participants from different organizations to write down why this was. Then ask why that statement was true, and so on. Every person ended up in the same place: People had an incomplete picture of what content was, how to make it effective, and the importance it had to the success of the organization. No shiny object will solve that problem.

As a consultant, I certainly do not have all the answers. But in the 20 years that I've been helping to transform organizations from traditional to digital operations, I've learned what questions need to be asked. It's time we all embrace our inner toddler and ask why. A lot."