Think like a 4 year old. Why? Read on…
Do the neurons in your head speak in proper language?
How do you answer that without getting metaphysical on his ass? But the classic pre-schooler question is the most powerful – “why?”. Other parents will know the score:
Daddy what are you doing?
Pruning the tree.
Why are you pruning the tree?
Because it grew too big.
Why did it grow too big?
And so on…
At this age kids are trying to sort out fundamental principles in their heads so they are never afraid to challenge what they see, hear or feel, whereas we adults make most of our decisions based on experience, habit, social pressures and gut instinct and we rarely sit back and question why we do things.
Given the scale of the sustainability challenge we need to radically rethink why we do things and why we do them in a particular way. Inside organisations sustainability efforts often come up against “That’s the way we do it here” – a blind assumption that the status quo is the status quo for good reason. Using the toddler test – asking “why?” until you can’t any more – is a powerful weapon in your armoury as a change agent. “Why?” makes people stop and think, and it can get the conversation back to to fundamentals which can lead to greater innovation.
But the power of why? should also be brought to bear on the field of sustainability itself where many myths prevail over common sense. People assume the waste hierarchy is carved in stone, biofuels and offsetting are dismissed offhand as evil and many just follow the well-trodden path without asking what they are trying to achieve.
So, sometimes it pays to think like a child – after all it was a kid who saw through the Emporer’s New Clothes.