People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it. Simon Sinek makes this point again and again with interesting anecdotes and reasoning. There is power is sharing a purpose that people can identify with.
Simon points out that many companies don’t lead with the why. They don’t inspire us to participate or to buy. They focus on the power of manipulations. Manipulations can be price, promotion, or novelty. (I also loved the point that novelty is not innovating.) This will work in the short term but erode quickly. It can lead to a race to the bottom. You’re not building long-term loyalty, you’re just pushing product. This can happen internally in a company as well. For instance, a bonus structure can encourage performance but might not be the tool you want to use to inspire shared purpose and vision.
The Golden Circle
Simon envisions a circle with “why” in the middle, followed by concentric circles of “how” and “what”. If you lead with the middle of the circle – the “why” – you are more in line with an inner purpose. It’s also usually harder to discover and to keep this why in focus. This is the purpose for why you do what you do. The “how” is your distinctness in the market or what makes you special. The “what” is easy and is simply the product or service you make or give. The more time we spend communicating the why in the middle of the circle, the more inspiring we will be. In the long term, we will also stay closer to our mission and not betray our core values that got us started. For example, if the railroad companies had defined themselves by their “why” – help masses of people find transportation – they might not have died out after the advent of passenger air flight. Instead, they didn’t steer by their “why”, and were left to become irrelevant in their “what”.
Simon’s book is a great read. He is inspirational in his own “why”. I am more intent on clarifying my own “why” in daily work so-as to lead a more inspiring and satisfying life.