Rick Boersma

“Why can’t I stay up late?”

“Why can’t I have another cookie?”

“Why are you leaving me at Grandma’s for a week?”

From the moment we learn to ask “why,” we are all investigators.

Investigation—or, more simply put, asking questions—is a critical component in the innovation process. It helps us to:

  • understand the context of a situation,
  • take time to analyze, step back, and think things through; and
  • drill down to root cause.

Essentially, investigation is about looking at the big-picture trends and underlying root causes of a problem; and considering all the factors—political, economic, environmental, social, technological and otherwise—at play.

All about the questions

The first step in Investigation is not about generating answers, but identifying the right questions.

Why are questions important in innovation? Because there is plenty of information out there that we know we don’t know (including stuff we don’t know that we don’t know...I know, it’s confusing!).

Investigation tools help you slow down, think, and organize your thoughts. In doing so, you can actually increase the range, originality and impact of your questions.

And those breakthrough questions may eventually lead to breakthrough answers.

Investigation tools

There are many tools out there to assist you in with investigation—each one structured differently to appeal to different thinking preferences.

One such tool is The 5 Whys, which basically allows you to act like an inquisitive toddler. The way to get started: simply ask “why?”

The graphic provides a step-by-step rundown of The 5 Whys—using an example of a hotel where staff turnover is high.

Don’t skip investigation!

Insights and eureka moments don’t occur in a vacuum, but are the product of research and hard work.

In a rush to “find a solution now!,” many organizations skip investigation when faced with a problem. As a result, their good intentions may result in only band-aid solutions.

If you take time to investigate, you greatly improve the chances of coming up with something truly innovative.

Happy innovating!

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Brady Wilson

Brady Wilson

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Alex Somos

Alex Somos

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Jean-Francois (JF) Hivon

Jean-Francois (JF) Hivon

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Michael Torrie

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Juice Inc.

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Rick Boersma

Rick Boersma

Co-Founder Floworks Training, Design & Innovation