One of the things I like about design thinking is the vast array of tools available in the proverbial toolbox, particularly the ones that help uncover underlying themes. These tools allow us to understand and empathize with people in meaningful, human ways.

One example is the Five Whys method, developed by Sakichi Toyoda, the “King of Japanese Inventors”. Perhaps you recognize that name. In essence, the Five Whys is a way to get to the root of a problem, to understand what is happening below the surface in order to solve the problem — instead of just the symptoms of the problem.

The method is seemingly straightforward. Simply ask “why” questions until no further useful information is gained. Typically, this process takes about five questions, though sometimes less or more. The real challenge, however, is to ask the right “why” questions. This requires an inquisitiveness and curiosity on the side of the question asker in order to stimulate thoughtful answers from the respondent.

My daughter is a full-fledged Swiftie, and though we’ve had innumerable conversations related to Taylor and her music, I was curious what was lying beneath the surface of fandom. Here are The Five Whys of Taylor Swift …

Why do you like Taylor Swift?
I like that her lyrics tell a story.

Why does storytelling matter?
I feel like it connects people and helps you to understand the world better.

Why is connection important?
Because connection makes us feel less alone.

What does “less alone” feel like?
Lighter. The ache of anxiety is lessened.

Using the Five Whys method (or in this case, three “whys” and a “what”) we find that the underlying reason to listen to Taylor Swift is to feel lighter and ease the ache of anxiety.

Please excuse me while I go cue up Midnights.

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