Management & Organization

Become more inspiring, successful and important – find your WHY

By examining why, you do what you do, why your company exists and what it is you are really passionate about, you will become, like other people that are aware of their WHY, more successful, inspiring and important. This is according to Simon Sinek and his book Start with Why (2009).

The golden Circle

To illustrate how to become more conscious about your WHY and how the human brain normally functions, this simple model has been created:

The _Golden _Circle

The model in all its simplicity attempts to illustrate how we act, think and communicate.

WHY – your purpose, your vision or cause. Why does your company exist, and why is it interesting to others?

HOW – Your values. How do you do things differently or better than everyone else?

What – Your products and services, your marketing, PR and sales.

By far, most people and organizations start on the outside and work their way in towards the center of The Golden Circle, when they think, act, communicate, sell etc., and there is a logical explanation for this: This way you are working your way from what is the easiest to understand towards describing the things that are most unclear. Everybody knows WHAT they are doing, and most know HOW, but few are able to answer WHY.

And this is where Sinek believes that you should begin. According to him it makes a big difference starting with WHY:

Have a clear WHY. Your HOW’s and WHAT’s must be based on and be connected to – even be inseparable from – your WHY.

  • Have a clear WHY. Your HOWs and WHATs must be based on and be connected to – even be inseparable from – your WHY.

  • Be disciplined about your HOWs. Make your values coherent to your WHY at all times. Be disciplined and consistent in to sticking to your values and principles.

  • Consistently stick to your WHATs. In your products and services, marketing, PR and sales there must also be a consistency between WHY and HOW. If you are not consistent, your company will appear unauthentic.

The celery test

To make it work it's important that you always test HOW and WHAT according to WHY.

But how do you find out which HOWs and WHATs fit your organization? By conducting the celery test. When you get good advice or an idea for something new in your company, you must expose the idea or the advice to the celery test.

Sinek illustrates the test with a small story:

You are at a party where you are offered several pieces of good advice from some of the other guests attending the party. The first one believes that your organization lacks M&M’s, the next one believes that you lack rice milk. The third one recommends cookies, and the last one recommends celery. You listen to all of this good advice and the next time you go shopping, you buy it all. But what if you did not need it all? Then you are wasting your money. And as you stand in line at the supermarket with your cart full, nobody is able to see what you believe is right.

But if you know your WHY before participating in the party, it is a whole other situation. For example, when you know that your WHY is to always do things that are good for your body, you will still get all the good advice at the party. The difference is that the next time you go shopping, you only buy rice milk and celery.

When you filter your decisions through your WHY, you will spend less time at the supermarket and also save money. And you're certain to gain value from all of your decisions. And most importantly: When you stand in the line at the supermarket holding rice milk and celery, everybody can see what you believe in. You communicate what you believe in (your WHY) through your actions (WHAT).

If your WHY is clearly pronounced, everyone in your organization is able to make decisions just as clear and precise as you. A WHY is a clear filter that every decision can be filtered through; hiring, partnerships, strategies and tactics. All should pass the celery-test.

Loyalty, identification and product independency

According to Simon Sinek the approach works because people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. There are many ways of reaching success, but only through identification with your “cause” (your WHY) will you gain long-term business success.

This method has a at least three advantages:

Advantage number 1. Emotional attachment.
Give your customers a reason for what you do and you will create an emotional attachment that'll potentially create loyal customers, which, in some cases, goes a long way to show that they share your WHY.

Take Apple for example who have been able to create a loyal group of customers that one might be tempted to call fans. Many of them are willing to stand in line for their products just to be able to say that they had their tablet, phone etc. first.

 Or think of Harley Davidson-fans that get the company’s logo tattooed on their arm. They do this because they identify with the Harley values. By getting a tattoo they tell the world that they live by the same values.

Advantage number 2. Affiliation
Everybody has a strong desire to feel that we belong. Just consider, how you react when you are abroad and suddenly run into a countryman. We feel a sense of familiarity even though we don't know this person. A feeling like this does not arise when you tell what your product is and how you make it. In order to experience emotional attachment our brain demands a cause – a WHY – that we share. As an example consider how Apple’s WHY speak to innovative, creative people.

Advantage number 3. Product addiction
Companies that are based on their WHY are able to sell a range of products as long as they work in accordance with their vision. Apple doesn't limit themselves to selling computers they have a variety of products.

How to find your WHY

Your WHY doesn't emerge from trying to picture what you want to achieve or from planning the appropriate strategy for achieving it. It doesn't materialize from market research or interviews with customers and employees. To find your WHY, you must look in the opposite direction.

You'll find your WHY by looking back. Like Apple’s WHY, which according to Sinek, came from the youth rebellion in the 60s and the 70s. Likewise your company’s WHY dates back to something from the past. Your childhood education, your experiences etc. As Sinek writes: “Finding your WHY is a process of discovery, not invention” (s. 214).

Any organization is founded by a person or a group of people who had a wish of creating something bigger than themselves. It is this wish, this passion, you must identify – either in yourself or within your organization. To find your WHY is about something as simple as trusting your gut feeling.

So what is your company’s WHY? Why do you do what you do? What is your reason for getting up in the morning? According to Sinek there are great advantages to be found in the answers of these questions.