I enjoyed this book - it is well written, researched, and put together. Amanda Lang’s personality and ‘voice’ are apparent throughout the book, which gives it a personal touch. Much of the content is fascinating and far reaching - the importance of questions in the context of education, innovation, dealing with change, etc... Much of it applies at work, and in our personal lives. The ideas were reasonably well supported with integrated case-studies and examples; primarily from the business world. There were times when I wish the book was clearly split into two books, though: The Power of Why in Business, separate from The Power of Why in your Personal Life.
Key ideas in the book
Ms. Lang touches on a wide range of powerful ideas, many of which I hope to explore deeper here on the blog:
- babies are naturally curious, learning by making mistakes, but then in school we judge kids by the number of right answers they get, not by the number of failed experiments they learn from
- “experts” were important in the industrial era, but in our new knowledge economy solving new, unexplored problems is key - Claude Legrand in Innovative Intelligence (??)
- asking “how” to fix a problem is easier than digging deeper, and asking “why” did the problem happen in the first place
- SWOT analysis - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats
- how to learn from failure, how to let it influence your path in a positive way
- the importance of different perspectives
As the title of the book suggests, questions play a key role here. The book starts with an innovator, Steve Gass who invented a much safer circular-saw that stops instantly when touched. But how does he know this?
Good question. And for someone like Gass, a question is like an itch. He can’t ignore it or will it away. If he tries not to think about it, it only intrudes more insistently; relief comes only when he finds an answer. (Introduction, page 3)
Criticisms of the book
I took a look at reviews of the book and Goodreads and found some reasonable issues with the book:
- “I’ve read dozens upon dozens of these types of [business] books, so I recognize many of the stories she tells (Time Warner AOL merger, Four Seasons)” - Meg
- “I was expecting more stories other than business” - Hamood
- “It stands up against the usual competition on the business self help bookshelves… But you'll find nothing deeper, more philosophical or challenging here.” - Kathleen
Questions from The Power of Why
- How would someone with a fundamentally different background view this situation?
- What lead us to this point (in this crisis)?
- What strengths do we have to get out of this crisis?
I recommend picking up a copy of The Power of Why and giving it a read. I’m sure you’ll find your own set of powerful questions there.