Rudyard Kipling, not just exceedingly good cakes

You probably associate Mr Kipling with cakes. And he makes exceedingly good cakes (apparently). I am more interested in the lines from the poem the Elephant’s Child, written by Mr Rudyard Kipling.


Who what where how why


I have tried to memorise it (and failed) but it doesn’t matter because I know enough about it to recall what I need almost every day of the week. It provides the basis of the questioning framework I use to examine day-to-day work issues. You might like to try the same framework when you want to explore a problem or a situation you encounter. It goes:


KEEP six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.


Ok, it’s a bit old fashioned (like the cakes) but if you get yourself a scrap pad and use these six elements as the basis of questions to explore your problem or situation you may be surprised what might drop out. My question framework runs like this:


  • What is involved here?
  • Why is this a problem? Why has this happened?
  • When is it happening?
  • How is it happening?
  • Where is it going on?
  • Who is involved?


This is a great way of driving out assumptions and forcing different lines of thinking which can give you pointers to potential solutions to your problem and provoke fresh new thinking which can deliver some interesting results. Try it.


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