This month’s book review is the award winning ‘Start With Why’ by Simon Sinek. A book that came out of a TED talk Sinek gave in 2009 called ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action’

The premise behind the book is looking at why some people and organisations are more inventive, pioneering and successful than others, and why are they able to repeat their success again and again. Sinek says that it is ‘because in business it doesn’t matter WHAT you do, it matters WHY you do it’

Core Principles

A Core Principle is the ‘Golden Circle’ – where WHY sits in the middle and then the next ring our is HOW and the outer ring is WHAT. The WHY is all about your purpose and why the business exists. The How is the actions you take to realise your why. The What is then what you do and your products and services.

When you start with WHY you start with the reason to buy and then you work you way out from the centre of the circle. The example is Apple whose products are technically pretty similar to its competitors but Apple are experts at communicating the WHY and are seen as authentic as they always stick to this message.

The book delves further into the Golden Circle and links it to science and the biology of the brain.

Not What but Why

Some companies are defined by WHAT they do rather than WHY they do it. An example is Dell who are defined as selling computers but may not be considered by the consumer as sellers of smartphones or tablets. Dell did try to move into that market but then retreated.

Why is really important with the hiring of people. You want to recruit people who are passionate about your WHY, your purposes and your beliefs.

Why and How

Interestingly in businesses you need leaders with both WHY and HOW. Behind every WHY leader who is the visionary one, you also need a HOW leader who brings the WHY to life. A HOW type doesn’t necessarily need a WHY type to succeed but a WHY type always needs a HOW type. Sinek says that HOW type leaders can be very successful but rarely build billion dollar businesses that change the world.

Symbols and Logos

Symbols and logos can help turn the intangible into the tangible. Symbols have meaning because we give them meaning. A logo can only become a symbol when it inspires people to use it say something about WHO they are. An example is Harley Davidson. The logo embodies an entire value set and it is about the people who love Harley Davidsons for what they are.

A chapter is devoted to the companies who lost sight of their original WHY and paid the price at least in the short term. Examples are Volkswagen and Walmart. There is a need to stay true to the cause or belief and only the great companies keep their WHY year after year.

Interesting book and well worth a read. Easy to digest and follow.

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