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Innovation Homework | The Why Game

You may remember “The Why Game” as the classic routine used by children to infuriate their parents (or anyone in earshot). In that context, it often culminates in the equally classic “Because I Said So”. Despite dubious origins, we find it an invaluable tool in our personal and professional lives. It helps direct our efforts and clarify our goals.

Skills Practiced

  • Questioning

  • Formulating Problem Statements

The Why Game Explained


  1. Select a problem or challenge. It can be professional or personal.
  2. Ask yourself why you want to solve the problem.
  3. Take the answer from the last step and ask “why?” again
  4. Repeat step 3 until you’ve asked yourself “why?” 4-5 times.
  5. Rephrase the answers to the “why?” questions as “How might we…?” statements. For example, if the answer to your “why?’ question is “To improve personal well-being”, rephrase it to “How might I improve personal well being?”
  6. Compare the “How might we…?” statements to the original problem statement. Ask yourself if you want to stick with the original challenge or tackle the challenge at a higher level of abstraction.


Why do you want to sell Split Flaps?

  • To improve sales.

Why do you want to improve sales?

  • To improve business.

Why do you want to improve business?

  • To increase personal wealth and further my career.

Why… etc.


  1. How might we improve sales?

  2. How might we improve business?

  3. How might we increase personal wealth?

  4. How… etc.


If our creative endeavor is stalling, it’s often helpful to see if we’re on the right path. Use the “Why Game” to compare a problem statement with other related statements to see if it is the right one.

John Halko

John is Oat Foundry’s Director of Innovation – tasked with systematically challenging the status quo.

Email John directly

John Halko

Innovative thinking leads to building cool stuff.