Shawn Parr: The Power of Why — How Childlike Curiosity Can Inform And Inspire

Shawn Parr: The Power of Why — How Childlike Curiosity Can Inform And Inspire
Arts & Culture

The power of asking "Why?" and the conversation that follows is an essential part of a healthy corporate culture.

Shawn Parr, Bulldog Drummond
  • 15 december 2011

Kids have an insatiable appetite for knowledge and an unapologetic curiosity for all things new and misunderstood. When they don’t know the answer they actively seek the truth. They have a natural humility without posturing, pretense or ego wrapped up in their questions; they fill up their knowledge bank by being open. Whenever I’m in the car with my 6 year-old daughter, she bombards me with “Why this Daddy, why that Daddy?” and if she doesn’t understand how or why something works, from the simple to the complex, she has no hesitation asking. It’s amazing how the power of asking “Why?” and the conversation that follows always leads to a deeper discussion around the subject and clarity.

Don’t be a know-it-all.

Young children are like sponges, full of optimistic curiosity that fuels their confidence to be creative. But as they get older, they lose that magical openness, and, for many, the door to creativity closes very early. It starts in elementary school when the need to fit in comes from peers and parents, to get the grades and tick the boxes. Taking risks and asking why becomes less important than knowing the answer and conforming. In a world where ticking boxes is rewarded, we’re not encouraging people to come to work with that passionate childlike curiosity because it’s not encouraged in our education system.

Many corporate cultures program their people to think that they have to have all of the answers, and this leads breeding know-it-alls who have to have all the answers, and through position or posture create confusion, waste time and valuable resources because they don’t really know what they’re talking about.

Wake up stupid.

While many come to work ready to compete for attention and credit rather than to learn and be inspired by those who are more experienced, we can learn a lot from how kids operate. They wake up every morning with an open mind, living like a sponge for knowledge, approaching every project, every challenge or interaction with an “I know-nothing-teach-me” attitude. Go to work with an open mind and childlike curiosity that helps you see things that you’d otherwise be closed to. Embrace being the dumb one in the room; it opens the mind and leads to great conversations and fresh new ideas.

Why is a powerful learning tool. 

Approach every situation and every business challenge with a learning mindset. Put “why” to work by challenging convention and existing solutions with questions that help you gain knowledge and understanding. Use the power of “why” in all aspects of your work (and in relationships for that matter) for clarity on the objectives, reason for a project and observational learning around consumer behavior. If you don’t know, or you don’t understand why your team or the company is going down a path, don’t sit there as an uninformed passenger ask why! Here are some things you might considering questioning this week:

  1. Why not?
  2. Why did you ask me to do this?
  3. Why are we doing it like this?
  4. Why are we talking about this?
  5. Why don’t we think of a better way?
  6. Why don’t we step back and ask for input?
  7. Why didn’t I get the promotion?
  8. Why do people love this?
  9. Why should I care?
  10. Why is no one listening to us?


Shawn Parr is the The Guvner & CEO of Bulldog Drummond, an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, IDEO, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, Heineken, Annie’s Homegrown, The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, CleanWell, The Honest Kitchen and World Vision. 
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