I just finished reading Start With Why by Simon Sinek. Sinek writes that “…people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” Every company knows WHAT they do. Some companies know HOW they do it. But very few companies truly know WHY: Why does the company exist? What is the purpose? Why should anyone care?
“Start With Why” shows the importance of WHY: how WHY helps companies understand themselves, which in turn helps others understand the company. Sinek has a TED talk on the subject.
Apple comes up again and again. “Think Different” wasn’t just a marketing slogan for Apple. It embodies the WHY for the company. Apple was started to challenge the status quo. When most computer companies were selling computers to businesses, the Macintosh was created to bring computing power to individuals. When the music industry was trying to sell more CDs, iPods and iTunes offered consumers a way to hold “1,000 songs in your pocket.” Apple can innovate and offer a wide selection of products successfully because everything they do is rooted in WHY.
Sinek also uses the story of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., and his famous “I Have A Dream” speech as an example of the power of WHY. People came to hear Dr King speak because he was putting into words what they already knew: that segregation was unjust and needed to change. He said “I Have A Dream,” not “I Have A Plan.” While a plan had its place, there were different ideas on HOW and WHAT to do. King’s speech reinforced WHY they were doing it.
But WHY isn’t enough, and Sinek also writes about the next steps. WHY is a belief; HOWs are the actions we take to realize that belief. In many companies, the CEO is the WHY person while the next level down are the HOW folks: the people who can take that belief and implement strategies to bring it to life.
Then come the WHAT people, who actually get the work done and have the closest interactions with people in the marketplace. If the WHAT people understand WHY, everything the company does will be more authentic and believable…and when the people at the company believe, consumers will too.
I want to delve deeper into the subject and really put into words WHY I do what I do. There are the obvious reasons: to earn money. But there are less obvious reasons, too, and I’m having trouble putting those into words. If reading “Start With Why” was step one, I’m ready for step two: figuring out what WHY is.
Do you know your WHY? Can you suggest resources or books to help as I work on putting my WHY into words?