WAH - The Strategy and Tactics of Innovation

WAH: Why And How

Napoleon once said:

" Why  and How  are  words  so  important,  they  can  never  be  used too often”.

In Innovation WHY And HOW (WAH) are the focal points of energy and the essence at the core of every project. WAH exists in every stage of planning, as it is, in reality, "Strategy" (the "Why") and Tactics ("the How"). WAH is the reason that Sun Tzu's Art of War is a bedrock component of many serious business school courses. 

Understanding Why you're attempting to attain an innovation goal (your Strategy) and how to go about doing it (your Tactics) allow any project to begin. Without asking WAH at every step you may quickly lose focus and, with it, momentum.

Both Why and How are individual compendiums of thought that can delineate entire spectrums of inquiry regarding any specific innovation. They leave the proverbial "Who, Where, and When" as needed... but pale by comparison. WAH is the Tip of the Spear and the Aim behind it! 

So, How (ha!) do we use WAH. The Why of using WAH is now obvious... Because without WAH we have no plan of attack, no logistics to support the effort, no reason to allocate resources, and no concept of the dangers and opportunities that await us on a particular venture. WAH opens our eyes as no other questions can. WAH's use is demanded, expected, needed and without question should be a part of every phase of any innovation effort.

The "How" is as simple as placing the word in combination with a basic list of objectives. How do we begin?, find..., source..., create...., manage..., allocate..., optimize..., The list of "How's" can be as concise or as long as needed for each particular "Why" goal you've laid out for the project.

Learning (actually remembering!) to use the "WAH" at every juncture is the real trick! Once you become accustomed to asking "Why and How" about everything you come in contact with, the thought processes that spawn from these simple but dynamic duo of words is often the precursor to amazing new ideas. It surprises me how often people don't ask these simple questions. They are door-openers that allow the floodgates of our subconscious to release a thousand possibilities that can then be explored.

Coming upon any problem... an immediate "Why has this particular thing happened?, Why Now?, Why is this a problem and not an opportunity?" should happen to envision a plan forward from that point, and "How can I use this to my advantage? and How can I optimize this situation? " will adjust your point of view, and often shift the probability of a successful conclusion in your favor.

An example of the use of WAH during one project’s development: There was a decision point in the project about a component which was becoming a sore point in the project’s development. Metal was preferred, but weight and costs were a major problem. This part had never been made from anything but metal in other iterations of the product because it had to maintain a dimensional stability under extreme use. When viewed through the lens of WAH it became clearer what needed to be done.  Why was this such a problem? How could it be best optimized?

Metal was ascertained to be too expensive in the new product iteration when the machining was factored into the cost  and it  was thought that injection molding the part in plastic might not be strong enough to maintain its dimensional stability.  A reasonable price, in either metal or plastic, to achieve both the strength and dimensional stability was the ultimate goal. How many plastic options could do the job, maintain their physical stability under use and be cost effective?  How could we re-design the part to utilize the dynamics of the potential plastic candidates to attain the target goals?  And could we also amortize the mold over the 1st 10,000 parts to further lower the target cost?

In the end, the part was redesigned specifically for plastic construction with a specific carbon fiber reinforced high strength plastic. By using a computer designed ribbing structure to maintain strength and physical stability, the re-design cut out 45% of the weight, cut the per part cost by 25%. The re-design also gave us an option to modify the part for a secondary product iteration via mold plug-in’s which altered its structure without re-building an entire new mold.

This example of the simple use of WAH is generic and somewhat simplistic, yet shows how asking the right questions often lead our thinking into new avenues which have answers we had not explored before. That is the beauty and reasoning behind the use of the WAH in all basic decisions. Not as a “be all – end all” tool of decision, but as a perception bender and mind spectrum enhancer that opens us up to new possibilities.

But be warned, there is a "dark side" to WAH. For it is far too easy to ask negative WAH. "Why me?” “Why can't I every get a break?”... “How am I ever going to get through this?” are easy mental deal-breakers that fall back on self-pity and "Why can't someone help me" mind sets. Using WAH effectively requires optimism and a forward-looking view of any situation, and life in general.

A famous example of the “positive over the negative” power of WAH is the story of Edison’s search for the perfect filament for the light bulb. The story is often quoted, with a number as high as 6000 failures, in the search for that perfect mixture of materials to provide light and lifespan. Regardless of the number of times he failed in his quest – his mindset was not asking Why his quest for the perfect material was leading him to failure so many times – but asking How each attempt was providing him with more data and Why that data would lead to the desired answer. WAH was showing him another positive way NOT to make a light bulb! His perseverance in seeking the ideal Why and How to produce his product would eventually change the world by leading him to invent a true “disruptive technology”.

WAH - pronounce in Chinese - is "WOW" or as I like to put it “!!”. Super Thought Leader and Business Guru, Tom Peters, says "WOW!" represents the essence of innovation thought, and an innovator’s primary goal is attaining the “WOW Factor” in all that they seek to accomplish. WOW is not always a singular Idea that goes against the tide of "the Status Quo" and "the commonplace" – or even an idea that can change the “playing field”, but it certainly can be!

WOW, (using WAH) can be a process of incrementally attaining small leaps forward in a world that is not ready for your totally forward-thinking ideas. Today, WOW of great magnitude is a concept known as "Disruptive" as in Disruptive technology (like Edison’s bulb). Your small WOW steps, even if they are unsuccessful, can sometimes create a big step that attains the level of “disruptive” and it can change the playing field forever. To learn the true power of WAH is to understand the meaning of "WOW", the concept of being Disruptive and the power of Individuality!!!

CONCLUSION: WAH In Our Daily Lives

For some people the thought of "WOW" in its many WAH iterations is a frightening prospect. This is not just true in Asia where individuality and bucking the system is often erased from people during early schooling - but globally due to generations of parenting that told its children to "stay in line", "follow the leader" and "don't ask questions of superiors".

Today's world of rapidly changing technologies, ideologies and innovations needs free thinkers who are the exact opposite of these past learning models. Understanding and embracing a mindset of "WAH", and seeking the “WOW” in all that you hope to accomplish, will create a path un-walked by others and unparalleled in opportunities which the true new innovators will use as a guide to an amazing personal and business future.


Robert Gold - cyberknight.rob@gmail.com 

CyberKnight International - Innovation Consultants

Principal Instructor - Innovation WAVE Workshops

Copyright 2013 - 2020 Robert J Gold / CyberKnight International Ltd