Why was the question asked?

Listening is not understanding the words of the question asked, listening is understanding why the question was asked in the first place.”
Simon Sinek
author of the book, “Start with Why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action.”

In his book, Simon Sinek presents the concept that individuals and organisations that start by asking “Why?” rather than “What?” tend to be more successful.

He uses the example of the iPod (1000 songs in your pocket) rather than Creative’s Zen (4Gb storage) as being more emotive and in turn successful despite Creative leading Apple to market by around 22 months.

Similarly, the world of OSS has been built upon the “What?” with suppliers and their CSP peers basing their opening gambits on features rather than reasons why. On a large proportion of my past OSS consultancies, the customer has started from the what (ie what features) rather than the why (ie why will the business benefit). I guess that’s logical since I’d been hired as a “technical consultant” rather than a “management consultant.” 🙂

On those consultancies, it was important to listen and understand the “what?” but then trying to dig a little deeper to find out “why?” the OSS project is actually important to an organisation. Do you try to get to the “why?” as your starting point and then refer to all the technical requirements provided by the customer?

If you’d like further assistance in finding your “why?,” then Step 1 (section 3) of my OSS Business Case Builder provides some suggestions.

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