Start With Why

Last Fall, I was introduced to Simon Sinek’s TED talk “Start With Why” during my Theories of Persuasion class at UTA.  I was fascinated by the concepts and watched the video several times over the following weeks.  When I learned it was the teaser for a book, I added it to the reading list.
All in all, the book is pretty brilliant and something that every leader, entrepreneur, and executive could likely find immense value in.  I preaches the idea that customers buy what we do not why we do it; a profit is a result of purpose, not a purpose in itself.
Sinek sites three levels of a message: what, how, and why.  Most companies advertise the “what” of their product, potentially even the “how” of their business model, but it’s rare that a company’s message will share the “why” they are doing business.  He introduces the idea that the biological makeup of the brain to explain how “why” messages appeal to the limbic brain that is responsible for behavior (like trust and loyalty) and decision making (like purchase behavior).
There are valuable insights on almost every page of this book, however I thought I’d share one take away and one (in my opinion) very powerful quote.
Something he discusses in the book is how successful ideas need visionary leaders to drive the “why” of their company, organization, movement, etc.  Leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and Walt Disney can inspire people to follow them towards their dream.
However the “why” people always need good “how” people to succeed.  These are the people who can work behind the scenes to mechanize the vision and ideas and see them into action; without them, it simply remains a dream without becoming a reality.
I feel this is really where one of my strong suit is.  I have no problem standing in front of a room full of people and rallying them towards an idea, however I find myself enjoying and being the most successful at strategizing and planning by looking at an opportunity or challenge as a puzzle to figure out the most efficient ways to make it work.
The following was one of the biggest messages that stuck out to me in the book.  It’s not uncommon that businesses might think that they have it all figured out, but really they are just succeeding despite themselves.
“There is barely a product on the market today that customers can’t buy from someone else for about the same price, about the same quality, about the same level of service, and about the same features… but if you ask most businesses why their customers are their customers, most will tell you that it is because of their superior quality, features, price, or service.  In other words, most companies have no clue why their customers are their customers.  This is a fascinating realization; if companies don’t know why their customers are their customers, odds are good that they don’t know why their employees are their employees either.  If most companies don’t really know why their customers are their customers or why their employees are their employees, then how do they know what to do or how to attract more employees, and encourage loyalty among those that they already have?  The reality is, most businesses today are making assumptions based on a set of incomplete, or worse, completely flawed assumptions about what is driving their business.”
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