TUESDAY 15 OCT 2019 9:41 AM


Donna Adams is digital colleague experience director at Barclays. She talks about curiosity and the need to ask 'why?'

Mind-boggling amounts of data is produced every day on the internet, yet we only use a tiny fraction.

Such an interesting opportunity here and it raises so many questions. Given the rate at which data is accumulating, are we more confused than enlightened? Even if we were able to consume it all, would it make the world a better place?

We know we’re in the midst of a data revolution, with the success of any large organisation hinging on how they use big data to drive decisions and grow their business. 

But the data is only useful if it answers ‘why?’  The key to filtering it, interpreting it and making it manageable is by asking and answering the ‘why?’ questions: Why do we need this data? Why is this trend trending? Why are our customers and colleagues doing what they’re doing?  Why aren’t they doing what we’d like them to do?

Yet so many of us still struggle with the ‘why’. This wasn’t always the case. When we were younger we were experts at bombarding our parents with the endless ‘whys’, trying to make sense of it all: ‘Why is the world round?’  ‘Why don’t we fall off?’ 

I remember when my daughter was much younger, she was constantly asking me ‘why’ questions: the constant stream, followed with the ‘But whyyyy?’ if she didn’t get an informative response.

So, as adults and in the corporate world, why have we stopped asking so many ‘why?’ questions and why do we find them so difficult to answer? 

Let’s be honest: ‘why?’ can be challenging; ‘why?’ can be scary. When we’re asked ‘why?’, it can feel like we are being tested or asked to justify something, rather than simply help someone’s understanding.

We have all hesitated to ask “why” in meetings for fear of looking stupid or showing we missed the answer five minutes before.

And we have all been in that under-prepared meeting where we found ourselves shuffling in our seat, nervously trying to string together an answer we hope will pass the ‘why’ test. Then once we’ve passed it, it’s followed up with a second and third ‘why’ question. And as we leave the meeting, we can hear our own internal voice asking us more ‘whys’ – ‘Why didn’t I think about that?...’ 

Data holds the ‘why’. And as with answering a child’s question to their satisfaction, storytelling often works. We start by asking the right questions, find the narrative in the data and tell the story of what’s happening and why.

So be inspired by the ‘why.’ ask it more often and be unafraid to answer. And if you don’t know the answer, maybe start with the data.

I’ll leave you with some words from inspirational leaders:


‘It is very important for young people keep their sense of wonder and keep asking why.’

Stephen Hawking


‘Keep exploring, keep dreaming, keep asking why. Don’t settle for what you already know. Never stop believing in the power of your ideas, your imagination, your hard work to change the world.’

Barack Obama