5 x Why

Getting to the core of the problem you are trying to solve.

Practical Information

What is this tool?

A series of “Why…?” questions to find the “reason behind the reason”. The questions help you to explore the social issue that you are trying to solve. This tool will help you to understand why this social issue is important to you.

Why do we use it?

To make it very clear what you want to change and why. Once you have formulated this clearly all your activities will serve the change. By using the 5 x Why you can move beyond the obvious and come up with an improved change statement.

Design phase:

Setting the scene


Pen and paper, Print, Online tool


<30 minutes

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A step-by-step guide

1. Write down the problem you are trying to solve.

2. Now you ask yourself why this is a problem, by saying  “Why...?” and add some elements from the problem statement.

3. Answer the “Why…?” question by saying “ because, …. “ and filling out a deeper reason.

4. Repeat the “Why…?” question 5 times, each time trying to formulate the reason. 

5. After you have answered the 5 “Why…?” questions you review all the answers and formulate the change statement, either by directly copying one of your answers or rephrasing it to a clear and concise phrase. 

How other organisations used this tool

How to use the outcomes of the tool?

Now that you have a clearly formulated problem, you can use it to describe your Vision or formulate a Design Challenge.

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