The 5 Whys

Category: The Challenge
Author: Ilse Fraussen
Facilited by the teacher
The aim is to identify the underlying cause of the challenge to create an optimal solution for it.
10-20 min
20-40 students 4-8 groups
Virtual whiteboard, breakout rooms


1. The teacher makes groups of 2-5 before the lesson and write them down on the virtual whiteboard.

2. The teacher draws five boxes – one below the other – on the virtual whiteboard and explains the use of the 5 Whys.

3. The students, or the teacher, define a problem with a product and create a draft statement for the challenge.

4. The groups rewrite the challenge as a ‘Why’ question and put it in the first box e.g., if the challenge is how can we stop the icecaps melting? This should be rewritten as ‘Why are the icecaps melting?’

5. The groups answer the question and write it as a ‘Why’ question.

6. The students repeat the process 5 times to reach the reason for the problem in the challenge.

7. The students review the ‘Why’ answers which will identify the nature of the challenge.


This activity will identify the underlying cause of the challenge in order to identify the real problem we are dealing with.


Inspired by: Inspired by: SakichiToyada – the inventor of Toyota Industries-