Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Start With Why - Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek's TED talk on the golden circle - What, How and Why - is a classic. It has been one of my favorite TED talks (the best in fact) and one that I circulated widely among my friends and clients. Anyone who is aspiring to be an inspirational leader, a communicator, a people person, an advertising person, must see this talk because it explains many things in such a simple and profound manner. Here's the link to the talk.
Portfolio Penguin, Rs. 450, 231 p

So impressed was I with Simon and his talk and his other talks that I watched later, that I bought both his books. 'Start With Why' and 'Leaders Eat Last'. In a nutshell Simon says that great movements are inspired because they fall in a pattern of concentric circles - the outermost being What (we do), the middle being How (we do) and the innermost being Why (we do what we do). Simon says most organisations know what they are doing, some know how they do it better but few know why they are doing it (by why here, we are not talking about profits but a greater purpose).

Simon says that to inspire great movements one needs to know their Why, their purpose clearly. Once the Why is clear, we communicate directly to the mindsets of people who believe in similar purposes. This is an area that goes beyond logic, beyond words. All words and logic are in the What and How areas.

Simon says that when we connect with people who share the same beliefs as we do (our why), they are sold. They buy why we do things and not what we do. These are a set of followers, a tribe, who shares same beliefs which is why there is great loyalty and followership. This is where he says there emerges a feeling of trust. Inexplicable, but its there. Simon links the golden circle to the human brain - the neo cortex being the one that deals with What and How, the words and rationale (which is why selling features does not work). The limbic brain corresponds with the innermost circle and this is the part that affects behavior, the gut decisions. There are no words there, just feelings. So, the why, the purpose, when clear, directly speaks to that  part which registers a kinship.

Sinek then brings into play the Diffusion of Innovations from the 1962 book by Everett M. Rogers to speak of how such movements are begun. He talks of the innovators (2.5%) who initially buy the idea, then the early adopters (13.5%), then the early majority (34%), the late majority (34%) and then the laggards (16%). All one needs to achieve is a tipping point - the initial 16% sold on the idea - the innovators and the early adopters. The clearer the idea, the better it is told, and more widely spread its delivery.

Simon Sinek quotes extensively from the Apple experience, the Wright Brothers, Martin Luther King to drive home his point. They were all clear about the why he says, the purpose. It was about a greater cause, a more expansive and inclusive cause, a mindset that challenged and provoked the people. Whether it was computers or flying machines or a civil liberties movement it was all about the why. It is so with us too - why we do anything at all. If we are clear about it, we can put some belief into it.

As leaders, he says that clarity on the why can help communicate the same values throughout the company. The golden circle works here too - the innermost circle is the top management, the middle circle being the How guys or the middle management and the outer most circle being the What guys or people in the front. A fuzzy Why can mess things up and bring down a perfectly good organisation built on a clear why (Walmart).

To me Simon Sinek's idea is brilliantly explained in his talk. The book explains his ideas in a detailed manner and adds some more ideas, the megaphone is one. It talks of belief, of a moment of inspiration, of a deep honesty to do something really worthy of our power. It is inspirational with a framework that explains why belief works, why clarity of purpose works, why good communication works, why anything that works really well works.

'Start with Why' is a book that needs a second reading. It's presented simply enough and if you have seen the talk you will identify with many ideas, concepts and stories right away. But its a gamechanger this book, for all that is good. He talks of belief, of honesty, of higher causes, of connections, of communications, of people - a why that makes all things possible. A good start to this year's reading. Buy the book. To start with watch the TED talk. Now!

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