The gears of industry and indeed those of the screenprinting industry turn as we solve the problems of our clients. Yes, as screenprinters, we are in the problem-solving business. But, many screenprinters are not very good at solving their own problems of how to gain the necessary knowledge to become better.

If you want to be a World Class Operator, and possess the knowledge to resolve the myriad variables of the screenprinting process you have to learn how to question everything.

The Problem

Today, the “New Generation” of screenprinters have found themselves caught up in the “free is best” attitude that prevails in most Western societies. Rectitude has been replaced by avarice, an intense and selfish desire for wealth, and power, with little desire to actually do the work for the required outcome.

This has led to the two new basic human instincts of the “New Generation”:

  1. To only provide what is absolutely necessary to meet their needs, not yours.
  2. To become admired by others

Are you just starting out seeking information on how to improve as a screenprinter and turned to social media as a possible solution? If so, have you noticed that when asking a question on social media, the answers are very short and seldom explanatory? There is this non-existent rule that the best answer is short. We can thank Twitter for starting that craze, where you are forbidden from using more than a limited number of characters to make your point. Of course, this will seldom give you what you want. You may think that all you want is an answer, but what you really need is the knowledge to overcome the reason for having to ask the question in the first place.

This shortening process of answers suits the individuals who only want to become admired by others. They can easily provide incorrect guesses, misinformation, deception, and outright lies because they do not have to explain anything, lest they get caught in the deception process. Most of the time they don’t get caught and when they do, they can always say, “Well, it was only a guess!” even when they made it sound factual.

When another person attempts to provide a factual, researched and knowledgeable answer with the details that you need, they are often attacked as being too wordy and providing more information than was necessary, by those who are inept at answering the question.
How to Get the Right Answer

The real answers have always come from asking the right questions of the experts with the right answers. Here are six ways to acquire the knowledge you need as quickly as possible.

  1. Befriend a greater number of people more intelligent than yourself in your field
  2. Hire a consultant that is knowledgeable in your field
  3. Find a mentor to work with you as needed
  4. Seek out the very best training available from a qualified expert
  5. Join a trade association, such as the SGIA
  6. Use the Five Whys

Assuming for a moment that you do not a great number of people more intelligent than yourself nearby readily available to ask a question and get the right answer immediately, or that you are part of the “New Generation” and are unwilling or unable to pay for a consultant, expert training, a membership in a trade organization, I present to you the free Five Whys to get the right answer.

The Five Whys

The question you should be asking is how do you determine the difference between factual, researched knowledge from incorrect guesses, misinformation, deception, and outright lies.

Most of us, use intuition to separate the good from bad advice. But, intuition only helps if you have done enough research to know right from wrong. A better approach to knowing the truth of a matter is the Five Whys. The Five Whys are a root-cause analysis technique originally developed by the King of Japanese inventors, who stated:

“When a problem occurs, ask “why” five times to try to find the source of the problem, then put into place something to prevent the problem from recurring.” ~ Sakichi Toyoda, Founder of Toyota Motors

This concept is used by millions to not only solve problems but to get the bottom of, well, almost everything. Mostly you will find it in the myriad lean methodologies where is it used to solve problems, improve quality, and reduce costs.

After Sakichi Toyoda death in 1930, Taichi Ohno of Toyota continued to use the process as part of the lean manufacturing movement that has helped successful business leaders by addressing the underlying causes, thus permanently solving the problem and creating a lasting new reality.

However, the Five Whys can also be used as a verification process to solve the problem of whether an answer given is factual and will withstand scrutiny. The Five Whys help you uncover the root needs of the person providing the answer to your question. This is true because the human instinct of the “New Generation” to only provide what is absolutely necessary to meet their needs, not yours. The best part of using the Five Whys online is that it separates the unintelligent from the knowledgeable quickly and does a good job of culling those deceive others from the continuation of their practices.

Why it Works

When you ask a question, you have a choice of either responding or ignoring the answers given. Often, the answer you choose to ignore may possibly be the right answer, especially if you have no knowledge of the very thing on which you are asking for help. It is probably in your best interest to respond to all answers in the beginning until you acquire more knowledge.

By responding with a simple, “Why is that?” or “Why do you believe that?” will usually and quickly cull out the guesses, allowing you to move on to those who respond with a thorough answer to your question. Your goal is to more quickly narrow down the answers and separate them into good and bad. Getting to the root cause of problems is an essential component of needs discovery, as knowing the root causes will define your solution and the success you will have.

Continue asking “Why” questions until you feel that the person supplying the answer actually knows what they are talking about. Be sure to thank them publically for the help provided. Once you have befriended that person, you will have an addition to your growing list of mentors.


Another trait of the “New Generation” is that they never follow up. The follow up is an absolute necessity for creating positive change in the world, especially in online social media groups. By publically responding whether something works or not, you do two things.

You point out to others that the answer provided by “fill in the blank” worked well and resolved your problem, which leads others to become more knowledgeable about what worked. And, it points out to others who have the right information.

When you see someone posting bad information that you know for a fact is not correct, point it out with your own factual and well-researched response. This helps clean up the social media groups and culls the misinformation.


Y0u will get those who simply walk away from providing answers. Each will have their own reason for doing so. They are usually the ones who don’t have the answer. Or, perhaps they mistakenly believe that they know it all and can’t possibly get anything from the conversation for themselves. Unfortunately, they will lose far more than you, because of their unwillingness to learn something new.

I was exhibiting at an ISS show one year, and an equipment manufacturer wanted to try the ink that I was exhibiting on his press, perhaps only because he knew that I would give him free samples. Later he came to my booth complaining that it was climbing up the squeegee and was a terrible ink. Then he proceeded to tell me that he had tried reducing it but the problem only got worse and he lost opacity. I went to his booth to see what the problem was. His squeegee angle was set at perhaps 45 degrees and the speed was almost at zero. I asked, “Why are you printing with such an extreme angle on the squeegee?” He just smiled and said, “It isn’t me!” and walked away. While he may have been making presses for 40 years, he was not a screenprinter. I lost a lot of respect for the manufacturer at that point. Always, remember that if you think you are right, you can still learn from others. All you have to do is ask why, until you learn or the other person walks away. If they walk, they may not know enough to help you.

More or Less

There may be only “5 Why” questions necessary, or there may be more depending on the complexity of the problem that you need to solve.

When using the Five Whys – do not stop at the first why believing that you have the right answer. Let it play out until you have uncovered information to take action on. Those who are capable of getting to the bottom of things create stronger relationships; stronger foundations of trust, are seen as problem solvers and change agents.

Be Careful

The 5 Whys are a powerful tool to help get to the factual, and knowledgeable answers needed to solve problems. Some of the reasons why it will not work for those without the knowledge to make it work well include:

  • When you are asking the wrong question or poorly defining the problem
  • You are not properly identifying the cause as you do have an intimate knowledge of the process.
  • You leave out important details that help others solve your problem
  • When your equipment is less than adequate to produce the quality you want
  • When you do not use the proper tools to measure your process
  • When you have the tendency to stop too early in your research rather than seeking the deeper level of root causes.

These can be significant problems when the method is applied through deduction only. On-the-spot verification of the answer to the current “why” question, before proceeding to the next, is recommended as a good practice to avoid these issues.

Why Go Deeper

Essentially, the Five Whys are problem-solving, and critical thinking that is much like what removing weeds at the root is to lawn care. Fix a symptom in business but not the underlying cause, and, much like a pulled weed with the root left in the ground, the symptom is bound to sprout up again. Fix the underlying cause of a problem at the root, and you will see lasting improvement.

Put another way, you can spend your time asking questions each day, like pulling weeds from a yard, or you can cultivate your yard to possess only the best grass that you can trim occasionally to create mulch for your garden. You end up with a beautiful lawn and garden that is the envy of everyone in the community.

The deeper your questions go, the more you learn about how to become that World Class Operator! If you employ the Five Whys you’ll learn how to address the root causes, solving problems effectively and for the long term. In the end, you will have created a lasting working relationship with a good many others. At some point, you will be the one providing the answers to others that believe you to be a World Class Operator! And, guess what? You will be!

May all your impressions be great!


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