Root Cause Travel

What is the deep reason why you are traveling?


Have you ever heard of root cause analysis?


If you’ve ever worked in manufacturing – or perhaps in project management for any sector – you’re probably familiar with the concept. According to the American Society for Quality, one of the world’s leading professional organizations for quality management,  “Root cause analysis (RCA) is defined as a collective term that describes a wide range of approaches, tools, and techniques used to uncover causes of problems.”


One of the most popular RCA techniques is the 5 Whys exercise. Simple but surprisingly effective, this technique was developed by Sakichi Toyoda (inventor and founder of Toyota Industries) to improve production quality and efficiency.


The exercise is straightforward: you begin by identifying a problem, then you ask “why?” five times in order to find the source or root cause of the problem.


Here’s an automotive example:

The exercise works because, in many cases, the surface-level, obvious-to-see problem is just a symptom of a deeper cause. While many people might pursue a convenient “quick fix” at the superficial level, this ultimately would be just a waste of resources and efforts that could be used to solve the real problem once and for all.


For instance, in the above example, if all you did was identify that the car didn’t start because the battery was dead, you would rush out and get a new battery….and find a few weeks and months later that you’d have the same problem recurring again and again. By asking “Why?” five times, you could drill down to reach a solution (creating a maintenance plan) that would solve the issue for good.


Root Cause Travel

Now, you might likely be wondering, “what does this manufacturing technique have to do with travel?”


Interestingly, here at Delve Travel, we’ve found this exercise can be especially useful in helping travelers to breakthrough obstacles that might be holding them back. Plus, at an even deeper level, it can help travelers penetrate down and clarify their “big why” – and this kind of clarity is invaluable for real transformation.


(In fact, we believe travel is potentially one of the most powerful means of growth – both professionally and personally – and this tool can help promote a truly transformational travel experience)


On one level, there are potential problems that could be keeping a potential traveler from pursuing a transformative travel journey. For example, for a traveler with what on the surface was a budget problem, we could drill down and discover that at the root was an issue about priorities, which could be addressed and changed.


While the 5 Whys tool is traditionally about “problem-solving,” we find it can be even more valuable as a tool for “intention setting.” Although it’s still about the “root cause,” this is the difference in philosophy between efficient causation and final causation.


In a nutshell, the efficient cause is “the primary source of the change” – for example, if you ask “why is there a house?” the efficient cause would be the construction crew that built it. They are the cause responsible for physically bringing the house into existence. On the other hand, the final cause is “the end, that for the sake of which a thing is done” – in the example of the house, the final cause would be the desire of the family who wanted to live there.


Final causation points to the ultimate end or goal – when it comes to travel, this is the deep purpose your journey can fulfill.


Here’s an example of the 5 Whys exercise as applied to travel goal setting:

5 Whys Goal


In this example, the potential traveler realizes that the desire to go to Japan is not merely to experience nature or ancient rituals as ends in themselves. Instead, the deep reason to travel is to finally get in touch with a deep authentic sense of identity, to understand why that sense of identity had been too closely tied to the business venture that failed, and figure out a path to move forward.


Maximizing Root Cause Analysis for Travel

It’s important to note that, like any tool, the 5 Whys exercise has its limitations and potential problems, so it’s useful to know in advance what these could be in order to truly make the most of the tool.


Problem #1: One potential problem or limitation is that the 5 Whys exercise assumes there is only one single cause. However, many problems have multiple causal factors. Sometimes to truly address a problem, you have to be seeking out and taking action to solve multiple simultaneous problems. Similarly, to truly make the most of a travel experience, it can sometimes be useful to identify a handful of important intentions for your trip.


Problem #2: A related issue is that the 5 Whys tool assumes that the answer you reach after asking “Why?” five times is the thing you should focus on. However, sometimes you only have to ask “Why?” once, and sometimes more than five times. Plus, the answers you identify along the way could also be worthy of attention. For example, in the Japan example, the client might have reached the insight about buried desires sooner or later, and also probably should spend time reflecting on what went wrong in the business that led to its failure.


Problem #3: Another potential problem with the 5 Whys technique is that it relies on your current knowledge, which may be too limited to solve the problem. This is an issue that definitely affects the workplace, but the solution in work applies to travel as well: you should actively research and seek to learn more. For travel clients, it can be useful to learn more about the destination and also to learn more about oneself through journaling or coaching before attempting the 5 Whys exercise.


While the 5 Whys exercise may not be a be-all-end-all tool to solve problems and/or achieve more transformational travel experiences (but hey, what is?), we’ve found it can be a useful tool in the toolkit to cut through layers of emotion and motivation, ultimately resulting in more meaningful travel.


If you’ve used the 5 Whys technique for more intentional travel, we’d love to hear about your experience with it (both positives and any negative feedback we could learn from)!

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