What are the 5 w’s

Answer the Five w’s – the key five questions of who, what, where, when, and why to understand the context of the problem you’re trying to solve.

👥 5 – 20 person | ⏰ between 30 and 90 minutes


This game helps the team understand the context of a problem more deeply by answering the five fundamental questions about the problem: who, what, where, when, and why.

Employees often come to meetings with widely different levels of knowledge around a problem. No one knows the information better than the team members themselves, so this gives everyone a chance to externalize and share what’s in their minds. It also allows players to unearth questions they have about the problem.

This game sheds some light on a problem, project, or initiative so that team members have a shared knowledge of the problem they are trying to solve, with fewer lingering questions.

5 W’s Instructions

  1. In a large white space visible to all the players, write the problem and the following words as headers across the top:
    1. WHO (are we solving it for)?,
    2. WHAT (is the problem we are trying to solve)?,
    3. WHERE (is it happening)?,
    4. WHEN (is it happening)?,
    5. and WHY (is it important to solve it)?. 
  2. Tell the players that the goal of the game is to understand any and all questions around the problem. Give all players access to sticky notes and markers.
  3. Start with the question WHO?. Give the players 5 minutes to silently write down as many items or questions as they can that begin with the word WHO.
  4. Ask the players to post their sticky notes in the white space under WHO?, then ask a couple of volunteers to cluster them according to topical similarity.
  5. Repeat this process for the remaining four header questions.
  6. You may want to write emergent themes near each cluster. This is also helpful for the players to reinforce that they have shared concerns. The themes should be one- to three-word phrases that summarize the general content of the clusters.
  7. When the meeting closes, gather all of the questions so that leadership has the opportunity to review them later and respond to important questions that weren’t covered during the meeting.




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