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The Why’s Why

Roy Bendor Cohen
December 2, 2021

In his talk, “Be A Player, Not A Victim,” Fred Koffman, an executive coach and advisor on leadership and culture, holds an apple in one hand and lets it fall down. The apple falls into his other hand below. 

Then, he asks the question, “Why did the apple fall?”

The audience answers almost unanimously, “Gravity.”

A single voice has a different response, “Because you let go!”

There’s silence as Fred restates the alternative hypothesis.

Fred ends this exercise with a statement of a problem, “We have two causes, but only one slot for an explanation.”

This short exercise is emblematic of most situations in life, and that is that there is often more than just one explanation for the singular question of “Why?”

The Matter of Perspectives

When you ask “Why?” each person answers from their own perspective, which depends on their background, discipline and experience, among other variables. 

These factors have huge implications, specifically within the context of business and organizational challenges.


Well, here are two explanations for the same question:

Explanation #1 

Understanding and solving a business challenge from different perspectives is key. 

Specifically, the behavioral perspective is unique as it takes into account the point of view of the people that your business serves (be it users of your product, customers of your service, or potential target audience of your campaign).

The Matter of Perspectives in Practice 

A leading bank in Israel asked our team at Q  to assist in helping to reduce their call center volume by leading inquiring customers to digital channels instead. 

We started by asking a simple yet critical question, namely, “Why do people call the support line in the first place?” 

By asking “Why?” we did not mean it from a financial service perspective (i.e. questions about credit card, cheques, account statements), but rather, we were interested in psychological categories of why people pick up their phones (i.e. motivation, cognitive barriers, level of uncertainty, mental models, etc.).

This enabled us to understand the challenge from the perspective of the bank’s customer so we could generate insights that helped transform the bank’s strategy to one of self-service.

The behavioral approach changes your mindset and point of view - it treats your customers as humans, allowing  you to really take a walk in their shoes.

Moreover, as a systematic and scientific method, it does not settle for the first and most seemingly obvious case. As one of our clients said, we, at Q, are here for the “why’s why” (and sometimes even for the why’s why’s why). 

Naturally, this  begs the question, “Why?”

Because the majority of human behavior is influenced by the unconscious, that is, we are not even aware of the processes that lead us to act in a particular way (what appears to us as the reasons for our actions are sometimes post-rationalizations). 

Explanation #2

The second explanation is that within the behavioral perspective, there are different approaches. 

Behavioral economics, which became very popular in recent years, focuses on our cognitive biases, or mental shortcuts that sometimes lead us to take decisions that are “irrational” (as defined by economic models).

Cultural anthropology and social psychology are focused on the context.

Cognitive psychology is focused on mental processes, such as perception, attention and memory.

Each discipline developed an impressive literature with many important insights around human behavior. Each developed methodologies that allow for a systematic inquiry based on empirical studies; some are qualitative, some are quantitative. There are those that are top-down, testing a hypothesis, and some that are bottom-up, allowing for categorization based on interviews and observations.

At Q, when we approach a challenge, we bring experts together from different fields. This helps us to overcome our own blindspots, which are created by the frameworks, models and research methods each one respectively leverages.  

To continue the bank’s example above,our anthropologist conducted qualitative research by listening to more than 200 phone calls between agents and customers. This helped extract the customers’ mental model, categories that they think with, and a narrative. 

Our cognitive-social psychologist also listened to the calls, focusing on her articulated hypotheses regarding the customer's level of uncertainty, goals, level of complexity, etc. 

Our cognitive scientist tested different hypotheses that we had generated using the existing data provided by the bank.

Together, they analyzed the collected data to determine what the most influential variable that explained the reason behind the calls. This way, we could ensure that our future solution would have the greatest impact. 

Each one of these approaches is valid and important. The integration of all creates magic. 

Why Are We Here?

The combination of explanations 1 and 2 is what makes Q Behavioral Thinking, Q Behavioral Thinking. 

We Qers see the world and solve its most complex challenges, from a behavioral perspective. We do so by asking the question “Why?” (many, many times, as you’ve likely already gathered from reading this).

Our behavioral perspective is interdisciplinary, as it takes into account different disciplines that are all aimed at one focus - to understand why people do what they do (or don’t do).

So, the next time you are trying to solve a challenge with a strong human dimension to it (which we believe most problems inherently possess), remember that we are here to pose the questions and deliver the answers to every  “Why?” 

Ask us why.

Ask us anything.
We’re in the business of finding answers!

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