The Seven Thens

With a starting point in a situation, one can choose their turns. There is a way to go backwards in time, which is what quality assurers and detectives do – and call it root cause. They ask the question – “why?” (Toyota wanted that to be repeated five times. That many layers of reason hide the truth that each subsequent “why” pulls back). There is another turn however that leads to insights about the future. We will come to it but just a spot of background building

Organizations and decision makers have depended on analytics – or analysis – for making better, fact-based decisions. With an explosion of data, available both publicly and within organizational confines, coupled with sophistication of computational technology creating analytics is not as onerous as it once was. The great thing about analytics is that they are never dead-ends. They are not what I refer to as “terminal” (this is where a lot of data vendors have a problem because they have always seen – and called – their offerings as “terminals”). In order to glean true insights from analytics one must further the analysis. Furtherance happens either by extension (“this is fine, but how about a further analysis of all our lost businesses”) or collaboration (“hey Steve, I think there is something funny with our sales trend. Can we take a look at it together and try make sense of it?”). Thus, analytics almost always casts an eye to the future. When we stand at the cross roads of a situation and we want to take the turn towards understanding the future, what question do we ask?


“Then” sets us out on a path of inquiry that hurls us into the future. “Then, once I have the current price of a security, I look up what the price trend has been in the past”. “Then?”. “Then I try to figure out if there is a price level from where it has bounced back so I could buy at that price”. “Then?”. “Then I place an order with my broker to buy at that price”. Theoretically we can go on but you get the drift. If you are building a product or service that has to do with user workflows, the word “then” is the best friend you can hope to have. Leave the “Why?” to the policemen.

Post Script 1: Of particular interest will be for interaction designers is this “then?” concept. Anyone has examples in action will post in comments, no?

Post Script 2: Someday a management consultant or an Ops Research person will work out the optimum number of “Then?”s required to capture most of forward workflows – till then let’s call this “The Seven Thens”. It lils nicely on the tongue
Picture courtesy: Deposit Photos

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