Why…Start a New Year’s Revolution!

New Years Resolutions are so 2017! Start 2018 with a New Years Revolution!  Let’s talk disruption and the most simple way to positively disrupt your business.  Disruption doesn’t need to start with hysteria or an app, it can start with one simple little three letter word. ‘Why’.

I started using ‘why’ in the charity space to try to better understand what was going on. Using this simple word helped turn around a national fundraising campaign from years of decline to growth and not just a little growth, to significant growth, over 30% growth in one year.  It all starts with ‘why’.

‘Why’ is such a simple way to interrogate your thinking and understanding of a business but we don’t ask it enough. The key to ‘why’ is to keep asking until you run out of ‘why’, until you truly understand what the underlying motive of your customer is.  Given that it’s early January I have consumed more than my fair share of caffeine to get me back into the groove, so let’s start there. Let’s talk coffee and ‘why’.

So pretend you’re a coffee shop owner. Why do customers come to your business? To drink coffee you say? Why coffee? Why not tea? Why your business and why not some other business?  Do they come alone or with others and why? Why are more business meetings occurring in your cafe? Why do those drinking on their own always look up when someone attractive comes into the store? Why are those who drink on their own and who look up when someone attractive comes into the store drinking lattes and at a table with a spare seat attempting to look casually busy? What does a latte drinker look like versus an expresso drinker versus a soy chai latte drinker – why do your clients choose different drinks? Why on earth does a ‘babycino’ or a ‘puppycino’ exist?

Why do people drink coffee at all? Feed a child an espresso shot with no sugar and what will they say? It is bitter and not subtly bitter but ‘in your face’ bitter. Why then do we need to learn to drink coffee?

Let’s do a quick poll – in the comment section below leave a short response right now – did you love your first taste of coffee and what was it?  (do it now before reading on)……..

My bet is that those who loved their first coffee were drinking something that was laced with sugar and milk. Something that would mask the taste of the coffee itself. Why?

Coffee is cultural! Your choice of coffee and coffee shop is a signalling device that tells others about who you are. Now, let’s get back to your coffee shop, why do people drink coffee in your cafe? Why?

Start with why and do not stop until you have disrupted your thinking and gained a greater understanding of your customers. Start a ‘why’ revolution and do some thoughtful disruption. Why not engage a market research agency like the legendary Square Holes (disclaimer – they are friends, smart friends), let them do the why bit.

So back to my charity fundraising experience, how did we turn a well established declining national fundraising campaign around? We asked ‘why’.  The event, was Daffodil Day and in 2012 results in South Australia looked bad.  Daffodil Day is all about showing support for those impacted by cancer but it had lost its way.  It became more about selling ‘merchandise’ that carried the Daffodil Day logo. Traditionally Daffodil Day was about wearing a daffodil pin or badge. So we asked why.  Why wear a badge? Why not just make a donation? We kept asking why until we were satisfied with the answers.

It turns out, that like many things, including coffee, wearing a badge signals something about who you are and what you stand for. The problem was that few people recognised the badge and the messaging was confusing.  We engaged a great creative agency Behaviour Change Partners and they built a simple but powerful campaign that educated people on what wearing that badge meant.  We trialled it in one state while other states maintained the traditional campaign.  Results were unequivocal 33% uplift in sales in South Australia versus negative growth in every other state/territory.

So what can you learn from asking ‘why’ in your business? One things for sure, asking ‘why’ when you’re an adult is much more annoying than when you asked ‘why’ as a 10 year old kid.  The reason asking ‘why’ becomes so annoying is that much of the thinking in organisations is built around ‘what we have always done’. The ‘why we are doing it’ gets lost over time. We repeat behaviour because it’s comfortable. We don’t question strategy or our superiors, out of fear of the discomfort or retribution. Asking why is confronting! It also happens to be a key factor in successful disruption.

So are you ready to start a three letter revolution in your organisation? Go on. I dare you! Ask why!






  1. Hey Champ,

    Very cool thought provoking passage. Why was I a cappacino drinker in 2015 & now flat white drinker in 2016! A months required leave from Alcoholic beverages & sugar I say!!!

    All the very best to you & the fam in 2016!!!!!



  2. Greetings Al, great to hear from you. Cappuccino to Flat White transition would suggest a more down to earth approach for 2016 – less frills, more down to earth. I like it, would work with a pale blue shirt 🙂


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