Why You Should Read What’s Your Why
In 2009, author Simon Sinek gave a TED called “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” This 18 and a half minute long viral TED talk called on business leaders to “Start With Why.”
“Why” isn’t just a word, it’s a powerful concept. In this telling book, Simon Sinek demonstrates why organizations guided by this concept will succeed more often than those which don’t.
This book has influenced many professionals. The goal is to focus on and amplify the things that work. Simon Sinek wrote Start With Why to inspire others to do the things they like.
Have you ever struggled to articulate your offering clearly, get people to buy into your vision, or determine the direction of your business? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this post is for you.
The Elevator Pitch
We make assumptions every day, and the decisions we make, and the problems that we solve, are often based on those assumptions. You could be making decisions based on incomplete or flawed information. You have to be careful about what you think you know – your perceived truth.
There are usually two ways to influence human behavior:
Manipulative techniques are often used in sales and marketing. Common examples include: dropping the price of a product, running a promotion, using scarcity and fear to get customers to buy now, and so on.
Many manipulative techniques work, and that is why so many people and companies continue to use them. But they often come at a cost, especially when you lower prices, later creating problems for the firm. Manipulative strategies do not lead to long-term success. Manipulation does not garner loyalty because it leads to transactions.
A true leader is “able to create a following of people who act not because they are swayed, but because they are inspired”.
Finally, there are two types of leaders: those who decide to manipulate to get to the end result, and those who start with the end result in mind and let everything else naturally fall into place.
And how does one inspire people? Simon absolutely believes that for any leader, and business, to be successful they need to know their why and it needs to be at the centre of everything they do and say.
Sinek gives examples of scenarios where looking at the bigger picture can shape your behavior towards driving long-term results. Take the classic example of American car manufacturers versus the Japanese. In American car factories, workers on the assembly line apply final fixes on doors using a rubber mallet, whereas in Japan the doors are engineered to fit perfectly from the start.
The Golden Circle
The concept of The Golden Circle was inspired by the golden ratio—a simple mathematical relationship that has fascinated mathematicians, biologists, architects, artists, musicians and naturalists since the beginning of history.
There are three parts of The Golden Circle: Why, How, and What.
Very few people or companies can clearly articulate why they do what they do. This isn’t about running a profitable company—that’s a result. Why is all about your purpose. Why does your company exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care? What is your mission statement?
Some people and companies know how they do what they do. Whether you call them a ‘’differentiating value proposition’’ or a ‘’unique selling proposition,’’ HOWs are often given to explain how something is different or better.
Every single company on the planet knows what they do. This is true no matter how big or small the company is, or no matter what industry they belong to. Everyone can easily describe the products or services their company sells or the job function they have within the company.
When we start with “Why”, we go from the inside out of the circle. “Why” is the reason to buy and the “What” merely represent the tangible products as a proof of that belief. “Whats” are the reasons we can point to rationalize why we so much like a company over another.
As professionals, you have the capacity to achieve so much more in life when you start with asking why. The Golden Circle offers an alternative perspective to existing assumptions regarding why some leaders and organizations have so much more influence than others.
When we try to sell the WHAT, we have to rely on manipulations like price to influence people. When we focus on attracting customers that understand and believe in our WHY, we build trust. Trust leads to loyalty, and loyalty leads to word-of-mouth business.
Simon Sinek cites the example of Apple. In his opinion, Apple is technically no different from its competitors. But Apple communicates from the “Why”. Apple’s “Why” is to challenge the status quo and empower the individual. And their challenging the status quo is a pattern repeating in all they say and do, which is the reason why people perceive Apple as authentic.
How To Find Your Why
When companies start with “Why”, with what they believe, they will tap into our innate drive to include those products as symbols of our values and beliefs. They make us feel special like we belong to something bigger, and we feel a sense of tribe affiliation with all the others buying the same products.
Most companies generally start with “Whats” and “Hows” because that’s what their customers ask for. They ask for great quality, low price, 24-hour service and lots of features.
And it’s all scientifically sounding because it’s based on data. But according to Simon Sinek, that’s a load of baloney. The part of the brain controlling decision making is different from the part of the brain reporting back “Why” that decision happened. So all those focus groups and questionnaires are probably of little value.
By now, you should see the value of starting with WHY. But what if you don’t know your WHY? How do you go about finding it?
Here are three ways you can go about uncovering your WHY:
Think about the original motivation for starting your business. What is the specific problem you want to solve, and why is it so important that you solve it? As Seth Godin would ask, “What change are you trying to make?”
Ask a close friend why they spend time with you. Or ask a long-time customer why they buy from you. Once they understand that you’re not being insecure, their responses will give you insight into why people are drawn to you or your business. They will highlight your common beliefs.
According to Sinek, the best businesses have a point of view about the world, a bigger vision that they are contributing to. This doesn’t need to be philanthropic, but it does need to inspire. What commonly held belief do you disagree with? What gets you up in the morning? What really matters to you?
WHY is a belief. HOWs are the actions you take to achieve your belief. And WHATs are the results of the actions – products, services, marketing, PR, culture and so on. When all three are in harmony, you become an authentic brand. What causes do you champion? When you start with WHY, like-minded professionals will align with the cause you are pursuing. Give people something to work towards. Give people something to believe in.
Are You Aligned?
Trust begins to emerge when we see that people and organizations are driven by reasons that go beyond the self-serving. Aligning Why, How and What is a way to build that trust.
Great leaders inspire, and they do not come up with all the ideas. They create the space for the ideas to happen. And great leaders create an environment where employees feel cared for.
Companies that act like commodity producers have a constant challenge to differentiate themselves from the competition. Chasing the competition, trying to match them feature-for-feature only deepens the “What” culture.
Because consumers are inspired by “Why” you do what you do, companies that begin communicating with the “Why” have a greater flexibility in the market.
When employees belong, they will guarantee your success. And they won’t be working hard and looking for an innovative solution for you, they will be doing it for themselves.
The goal is to hire those who are passionate about your “Why”, your purpose, cause or belief, and who have the attitude that fits your culture. Once that is established, only then should their skill sets and experience be evaluated.
Companies with a strong sense of “Why” are able to inspire their employees. Such employees are more productive and innovative, and the feeling they bring to work attracts other people eager to work there as well.
Take the example of Apple and Dell. Apple makes computers. Apple also makes iPads and iPhones. Dell, on the other hand, is defined by “What” they do. Dell does computers, so consumers don’t feel comfortable buying anything else from them like say, a tablet or a smartphone. They tried expanding into different verticals but quickly retreated to “focus on their core business”.
Leaders Of Innovation
Innovators challenge us to see the world differently. Innovators are idea generators. Early adopters recognize the value of new ideas, and are willing to ignore imperfection because they can see the potential of an innovation. Early and late majority are more practical minded.
The Law of Diffusion of Innovations stated by Everett M. Rogers pertains to the bell curve of product adoption. The curve outlines the percentage of the market who adopt your product, beginning with the Innovators (2.5%), followed by Early Adopters (13.5%), Early Majority (34%), Late Majority (34%) and Laggards (16%).
The ones who queued up for hours, or days outside an Apple store to buy the latest iPhone are all early adopters and belong to the left side of the curve. The people on the far right instead are never content and never loyal. For a business, it would be prudent to get to know the far right side of this curve better, so that you don’t waste time and money in trying to convert them. While some of them might end up doing business with you, they’ll probably switch to one of your competitors at the drop of a hat if they get a better deal.
The goal of a business is to find people who believe what you believe – the innovators and early adopters. These people will perceive greater value in what you do. Their willingness to pay a premium for your service, and experience inconvenience is more about them than it is about your product or service.
It will cost you and your business if you refuse to consider the Law of Diffusion.
How To Lead And Inspire?
Energy motivates but charisma inspires. Energy is easy to see, measure and copy. All great leaders have charisma because all great leaders have clarity of “Why”; an undying belief in a purpose or cause bigger than themselves.
Behind every “Why” type of leader, is a “How” type of leader who brings the “Why” to life.
In terms of an organization, the WHY is the leader, the CEO. He has a vision for the organization. The next level is the HOW level where you have the senior executives who the CEO inspires. They know HOW to bring the vision to life. The HOW types build the infrastructure. Those who know WHY, need the people who know HOW. But the HOW types do not necessarily need the WHY types to succeed.
“Why” types are the visionaries with overactive imaginations. They tend to be optimists who believe that everything they can imagine can be accomplished and they tend to be focused on things most people can’t see, like the future.
“How” types instead are more practical and more realist and tend to be focused on the things most people can see and tend to be better at building them.
The difference between “Why” and “How” types also introduces the difference between the vision and mission statements of an organization.
When both are clear, it will help the “Why” and the “How” type of leaders to have clearly defined roles in the partnership.
What’s good for your competition is not good for you and vice-versa. But how do you know what is good for you and what isn’t? To do this, Sinek proposes The Celery Test. Imagine if people told you that to grow you need cookies, Nutella, celery, fruits and ice cream. Should you get them all? No, because it’s time-consuming, expensive and scatterbrained. What you do is to filter everything through your “Why.” So, if your “Why” is to lead a healthy lifestyle, you’d probably pick only the fruits and/or the celery. When you filter your decisions through your “Why” you save money, time and, most importantly, you stay true to your cause.
Know Why. Know How. Then What?
The leader is the inspiration, the symbol of the reason we do what we do. They represent the emotional limbic brain. What the company says and does represent the rational thought and language of the neocortex.
Most companies struggle to differentiate or communicate their true value to the outside world. When we as human beings struggle to put emotions into word, we rely on metaphors, imagery, and analogies in an attempt to communicate how we feel. We use symbols. We create tangible things for those who believe in what we believe to say. If done properly, that’s what marketing products and services are; a way for organizations to communicate to the world outside.
I enjoyed reading Start With Why by Simon Sinek because it made me think. It also gave me a new way of viewing the world. I highly recommend this book.