Start With Why

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TME-RGudobbaThe goal for my articles is to provide my readers with something that will pique their curiosity and in turn stimulate them to look at things differently. Recently I read the book “Start with Why,” by Simon Sinek.

Why Start with Why? In the introduction, Sinek practices what he preaches and starts with the “why” himself. His book, he states, is “about the naturally occurring pattern, a way of thinking, acting and communicating that gives some leaders the ability to inspire those around them….We can all learn this pattern. With a little discipline, any leader or organization can inspire others, both inside and outside their organization, to help advance their ideas and their vision.” Unlike so many other authors presenting a business or entrepreneurial philosophy, Sinek makes clear that his intention is not to supplant other approaches to leadership development and social influence. “However,” he suggests, “if we’re starting with the wrong questions, if we don’t understand the cause, then even the right answers will always steer us wrong … eventually.”

Let’s look at Apple Computer: Sinek then presents three examples of leadership, each illustrating how the individuals responsible for shepherding business and social sea change were not necessarily first, or perhaps even unique voices, in their respective causes. He focuses attention throughout the book on Apple, Inc., and its founders, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. He notes the cultural ground conditions in play in the mid 1970s when Apple was established. In the wake of the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, and the student demonstrations of the 1960s, the American social fabric had been stretched to accommodate challenges to authority, to collective standards, and to conventional wisdom as never before. The revolution that was launched in 1976 was not one of arms or even ideas; it was an evolution of nothing less than the system itself, of the parts and principles that coordinate into the whole. Sinek describes the business realities faced by Wozniak and Jobs when the Apple 1 personal computer kit (yes, kit) was launched in 1976.

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“The personal computer revolution was beginning to brew when Wozniak built the Apple 1. Just starting to gain attention, the technology was primarily seen as a tool for business. Computers were too complicated and out of the price range of the average individual. Wozniak saw the personal computer as a way for the little man to take on a corporation. The personal computer could level the playing field and change the way the world operated.

No matter how visionary or how brilliant, a great idea or a great product isn’t worth much if no one buys it. Steve Jobs knew exactly what to do and would prove to be more than a good salesman. He wanted to do something significant in the world, and building a company was how he was going to do it. Apple was the tool he used to ignite his revolution.

In their first year in business, with only one product Apple made a million dollars in revenues. By year two, they did $10 million in sales. In their fourth year, they sold $100 million worth of computers. And in just 6 years, Apple Computer was a billion-dollar company with just 3,000 employees.

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Jobs and Wozniak weren’t the only people taking part in the personal computer revolution. They weren’t the only smart guys in the business; in fact they didn’t know much about business at all. What made Apple special was not their ability to build such a fast growth company. It wasn’t their ability to think differently about personal computers. What has made Apple special is that they have been able to repeat the pattern over and over and over. Unlike any of their competitors, Apple has successfully challenged conventional thinking within the computer industry, the small electronics industry, the music industry, the mobile phone industry and the broader entertainment industry. And the reason is simple. Apple inspires. Apple starts with WHY.”

Sinek asks us to consider a concept he calls the Golden Circle. The Gold Circle is inspired by the golden ratio of mathematics, a ratio that itself inspires architecturally and artistically pleasing design balance. The Golden Circle is intended to manifest a similar balance in human behavior. It is comprised of three concentric circles: the core Why, followed by How, then finally What. It all starts with why. First, let’s define the terms, starting from the outside circle and moving inward.

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Sinek equates the Why to an individual’s or organization’s purpose. He asks, “WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?”

The author uses Apple frequently as an example because simply they have broad recognition and their products are easy to grasp and compare to others. What’s more, Apple’s success over time is not typical. Its ability to remain one of the most innovative companies year after year, combined with its uncanny ability to attract a cult-like following, makes it a great example to demonstrate many of the abilities of the Golden Circle.

Again, to quote Sinek: “If Apple were like most other companies, a marketing message would move from the outside in of the Golden Circle. For example:

>> We make great computers.

>> They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.

>> Wanna buy one?

It’s not a very compelling sales pitch, but that’s how most companies sell to us,,,,

Let’s look at this example and rewrite it in the order 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.

>> Wanna buy one?

It’s a completely different message. It actually feels different. It just reversed the order of the information, moving from the inside out of the Golden Circle.”

Hopefully, this article will encourage you to take a step back and look at your organization from two viewpoints. First, how does your organization communicate to your customers and prospects, and second, how do they perceive you. I will continue this discussion next month.

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