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Blog : Start With Why


Start With Why

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Have you ever wondered why some communications and presentations are engaging, well structured and logical in format and others seem to ramble on never really getting to the point? Or why some business discussions seem to ramble on and on, ending up in a vote or autocratic decision because people aren’t 100% sure about any one of the options?

At Purple Cubed we use a simple tool for thinking ideas through and also for structuring communications and presentations, called the 4Mat system. This originally came from a study of learning styles by Dr.Bernice McCarthy (US). She noticed that people acquire knowledge and take in information in different ways. Some people want to know Why e.g. why are we doing this? What’s in it for me? Others like the facts question e.g. what is it we’re going to do?Some are more interested in the detail and how things will happen e.g. How does this happen? How does this work? And some want to know ‘what if’ – e.g. What would happen if I did this?

4mat captures attention of all types and gives everyone what they want to know, it therefore provides a brilliant structure for almost any communication or presentation, always in the following order:

  1. Why – the attention grabber – many people come to the why later on, by which time the audience has switched off. Establishing the why is also vital when thinking through an idea, for example, once you have clarity of context, the rest of the discussion is far simpler; the purpose is clear
  2. What – the overview – getting straight to the point
  3. How – the detail – some people start with the how; confusing themselves and everyone else
  4. What if – painting a vision of the future – what the end result will ‘look like’ creating interest and desire

The bigger picture here is that 4Mat also ensures that context, the ‘why’ comes first so as to provide the theme and clarity for the rest of the job at hand. This is in contrast to what typically happens when someone has an idea. People immediately get excited about ‘the what’ and then dive into discussing ‘the how’, without ensuring that the context; the why, is very clear. Hours of time are wasted. It’s better to spend time on absolute clarity of context and then fill in the details – far easier if ‘the why’ is apparent.

Here are a few tips for framing the why and also improving the stickability of communications and presentations:

  • Give examples - to bring relevance and context
  • Use stories - people love them and they illustrate your points in a real world way
  • Provide pictures and visuals - according to John Medina, author of Brain Rules, retention goes from 10% to 65% when pictures are used
  • Repeat key messages - which is the reason ‘the what’ and the ‘what if’ are similar – though say it slightly differently each time so that repetition doesn’t become repetitious

And if you do all of this? You’ll soon be a stand out communicator and a leader who provides clarity - who wouldn’t want that? (see what I did there?!)



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