Do You Know Why You Do What You Do?

Many of you are no doubt familiar with Simon Sinek. I first became aware of his work in 2010 when someone recommend I watch his Ted Talk. The talk was originally given in 2009, and despite a somewhat grainy video quality, it is now the third most popular Ted Talk of all time with nearly 24 million views. I still remember exactly where I Start with Why Bookwas when I listened to his talk for the first time (on a run through the Stanford campus which was early enough that I could still make a 9am meeting at Facebook!). I remember being struck by how simple his idea was, but at the same time how effective his ideas explain very important aspects of our behavior.

Recently, I decided to go back and read the book, even though I felt like I had a good understanding of the concepts from the Ted Talk. Although the Ted Talk does a great job of covering the main ideas in the book, I am glad I went back and read the book. The book is able to spend more time going in-depth on the main ideas and really gives the reader time to digest the many examples he provides.

There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.— Simon Sinek, Start with Why

The core idea in this book is something Mr. Sinek refers to as the golden circle:

Do You Know Why You Do What You Do?

As you can see above, he suggests that there are three levels to think about when we talk about our work; What, How, and Why. His basic premise is that most people describe what they do, but very few people can explain why they do what they do. Mr Sinek explains that we are wired to make decisions based on our emotions, and to inspire people, you have to appeal to their emotions and their passions. He goes over many interesting examples of leaders (individuals and companies) who have inspired people to follow them in cases where it may not make rational or logical sense, but they have inspired a part of them by creating an emotional connection in a shared vision.

The way these leaders inspire is by always communicating the Why first. it is a simple point, but the difference is clear when you think about it. Mr. Sinek gives many great examples, one of which is Apple. Below is how he phrases it:

Apple if they were like everyone else: We make great computers. They are beautiful designed, simple to use and user-friendly. Want to buy one?

How Apple actually communicates: Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly. And we happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?

By leading with the Why, Apple is aligning itself with those who share the same passions. They know who their target audience is and what they are passionate about and they communicate these shared passions. This inspires tremendous loyalty among their customers and helps them earn the trust needed to expand into other categories.

This thinking aligns very well with our focus on well crafted, creative, segmentations that can align your organization around Why you do what you do.