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The danger of “why”

  • By Alan Knott-Craig
  • December 14, 2012

Asking “why” is a very powerful tool, and some would argue it is the sole reason for humankind’s rise to dominate the world as a species. We seem to be alone amongst animals in our ability to seek causation


“Why are the birds not chirping?”

“Why are there tiger paw marks on the ground?”

“Why is that man pointing a sharp sword at me?”


“Why” has saved many a life…


But sometimes we go to far. There are some mysteries that are as yet inexplicable. Not being able to explain “Why” gravity exists, does not mean gravity does not exist.


Asking “why” too much also leads to confusing correlation with causation. “Why is that man rich?” We look at his personality and assume by replicating these traits we can become rich when in fact he is rich because he was born in the right time at the right place.


Sometimes the reasons are down to pure luck, an answer that is difficult to uncover empirically.


In business the ruthless hunt for the answer to “why” can sometimes go too far. We must be comfortable with randomness if we want to break new ground, otherwise we will only chase the known.

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