On Friday, October 16, Deb Hansford spoke about the “Power of Why” to students in the ETEM 1000 Engineering Management Seminar course. The objective of the course, according to Dr. Aldo McLean, assistant professor of Engineering Management and instructor of the class, is to encourage students to continue pursuing their degree in engineering technology management and to motivate them for success in their careers.
Hansford is a friend and colleague of Dr. McLean’s and the owner of PreCrest, LLC, a training and consulting firm specializing in supply chain and operations management, including APICS (American Production and Inventory Control Society) certifications. Her talk, however, touched on much more than her field of expertise.
As seems appropriate, Hansford conducted her presentation by asking the students a series of questions: Why are you in school? Why did you select your major? What do you want to accomplish? How are you going to stand out? Etc. “You need to know how to ask questions,” Hansford said.
Using the fishbone diagram and Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle (which places “why” at the center of “how” and “what”) as models, Hansford gave personal examples of how “why” is a powerful tool for success—from getting a new job and earning promotions to convincing a bar manager to put a low-bet Broncos game on the big screen. “I’ve often gotten what I wanted because I asked the right questions,” she said.
By fostering a question-and-answer discussion, Hansford’s message was conveyed as much by example as the information presented. She challenged the students to question everything, and as they attempted to answer her repeated inquiries of “why,” the group talked about the fields they had chosen to pursue, how they would “sell” themselves to potential employers, problem solving issues at work, the importance of technology, and much more. It is more beneficial to understand why something is important than what it is, Hansford suggested, using her career and the value of APICS certifications as examples. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” she said.
Hansford closed her presentation with a quote from Warren Berger: “Knowing the answers will help you in school—knowing how to question will help you in life.” Commenting on this idea, Dr. McLean told students that their education must extend beyond school, that they must continue to ask questions and seek knowledge to stay relevant.
Hansford’s overall message is perhaps best summed up in the final question she posed: “Are we asking why well enough?”