Ever since I came across Simon Sinek’s theory of “Start With Why” I have been trying to apply it to everything I do both personally and professionally. “Why” is how you explain “your purpose and the reason you exist and behave as you do”. Not as simple as one would think; this post will give you my interpretation of his theory and how it now drives my decision making process.
Simon calls his theory, the golden circle: from outside in, it’s defined as what, how and why. Most companies have an easy time with what and how, and most struggle with the why? They aren’t alone, most people also struggle with this as they take things for granted, never questioning “why” things are the way they are. They are content with accepting life, the highs and lows, as they come, as fate, destiny; I’m not.
Clearly Simon is not content with just “what and how” and has made “why” his vocation. That’s kind of ironic, when you think of it! Clearly he has struck a chord with those seeking this answer; his Ted Talk has been one of most viewed of all time.
To break down his theory, one only has to look at how some of the most successful leaders lay out the vision for their companies; they make it easy for staff to be inspired, focused and motivated with ONE goal in mind. This premise reminds me of one found in a book called “Good to Great” that states if you have the right people, going in the same direction with the one objective in mind, anything can be achieved – it gives center, the “raison d’être” to the mission – zeroes in on the bull’s eye.
Let’s flush things out a little. The “what” stands for what product or service a company provides… the “how” stands for how they do it, what makes them special or sets them apart from the competition… the “why” has nothing to do with making money, by default this happens, this is a result, but this “why” is the purpose, cause or belief.
In his Ted Talk Simon uses Apple and Dell as examples. Both are very successful computers companies, producing useful leading edge machines made to make our lives simpler. Funny though, I have never seen anyone line-up to purchase the latest Dell computer… there is no emotional attachment to this company or its leader Michael Dell.
On the other hand, the connection people have to Steve Jobs and Apple is religious – Apple has managed to tap into a part of the brain, the limbic part of the brain where lies trust, loyalty and the decision making process. In other words, Apple has convinced their customers to drink their “cool-aid”. They wear their Apple jewelry with pride. It’s no wonder that Apple’s market cap is 891 billion and Dell’s is 17, a coincidence, I don’t think so.
His theory has its share of critics, claiming that what Simon is really talking about is passion. An engaging, charismatic, passionate leader will essentially motivate his troops.
Call it what you want, by using “why” defined as Simon does, he simplifies, clarifies and refines the decision making process and allows people to find the purpose to every action taken. To ask “why” is healthy and often eliminates many useless, pointless, and directionless tasks centering work and life; I drank Simon’s cool-aid and so should you.