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Life gets busy. Has Start with Why by Simon Sinek been gathering dust on your bookshelf? Instead, learn the key insights now.
This is an unofficial summary and analysis. This summary and analysis is not affiliated with, authorized, approved, licensed, or endorsed by the subject book’s author or publisher.
StoryShots Summary, Analysis and Key Insights of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
Start with Why is a book based on Simon Sinek’s first TEDx talk, which he gave in 2009. This is now the third most-watched TED talk of all time, with over 25 million views. Start with WHY explains how we can create a long-term business by continually focusing on WHY we created our business. Starting with WHY will help us overcome unstable markets and build loyal customers. We can then use our expertise to support our company’s WHY and build a highly successful business that fits our values.
Simon Sinek’s Perspective
Simon Sinek is a leadership expert who has identified clear patterns in the way companies and politicians excel over the long term. Sinek is an author and motivational speaker. He is now the author of five bestselling books, including Start with Why and The Infinite Game. He lectures on strategic communications at Columbia University.
Many people see him as a modern-day philosopher because Sinek’s work is based on human psychology. His work looks at why some people or organizations can inspire others by successfully articulating their purpose or WHY behind their work.
Simon Sinek has been an advisor to Apple, GE and Nike, to name a few. He has also founded two companies. He is also a contributor to publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, BusinessWeek, and NPR.
Born in London to Polish-Jewish parents, he grew up in New York City. He now lives with his wife and four children on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
StoryShot #1 - Begin with the End Result in Mind
The assumptions we make have a significant impact on our actions. If you look at the bigger picture and consider your end result when planning, you will get better results in the long-term. Sinek provides an example that compares American and Japanese car manufacturers. In American car factories, workers provide final alterations on doors using a rubber mallet. They have to do this as the doors are not engineered to fit each model perfectly. Japanese car manufacturers’ doors are engineered to fit perfectly from the start.
Sinek also uses this metaphor when talking about leadership. He describes two types of leaders:
- Those who manipulate circumstances to reach their end result.
- Those who have their end result and potential issues in mind from the beginning.
StoryShot #2 - Manipulating the Sticks Doesn’t Work
Sinek describes two ways to attract customers: inspiring the carrots or manipulating the sticks. Most business managers choose to manipulate the sticks. Here are some examples of the sticks:
- Peer pressure
When we look at the number of incentives offered to us as consumers (such as price drops, special short-term promotions, using fear as a trigger, peer pressure and aspirational messages), they all typically point to some form of manipulation. We are put under the stress of making a quick decision for the benefit of the vendor. This happens everywhere, be it a purchase, a vote or support.
Irrespective of which of these manipulations are being used, we must notice these solutions are short-term. So, despite short-term improvements, these approaches will only lead to repeated manipulations. If your business becomes heavily dependent on these manipulations, your long-term profitability will be affected.
StoryShot #3 - Work within The Golden Circle
Sinek introduces a new leadership model called The Golden Circle. He uses this model to explain how legendary leaders like Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Wright brothers were able to inspire, rather than manipulate, to motivate people. It is the framework for the WHY. He uses three concentric circles to define business purpose. The innermost circle is the WHY. The middle circle is the HOW and the outermost circle is the WHAT. Let’s dive into them one by one:
A company must articulate why they do what they do. The WHY in The Golden Circle relates to the organization’s purpose and core belief. According to Sinek, “People don't buy what you do. They buy why you do it.”
You need to ask yourself these questions frequently:
- Why does your company exist?
- Why do you get out of bed in the morning?
- Why should anyone care?
The HOW of an organization is how they fulfill their WHY or their core belief. It’s the values, behaviors and principles that guide a company’s execution. The HOW convinces the customer how you are different or better than others. Other terms used for the HOW of a company are Differentiating Value Propositions or Unique Selling Points and benefits of your product or service.
The WHAT of an organization relates to the product or service that the organization provides. It’s the features and the bells and whistles that solve the customer’s problems.
Sinek provides Apple as an example of a company that effectively attracts loyal customers, employees and investors through a clear Golden Circle. WHY is at the core of Apple's marketing and the driving force behind their business operations. Let's consider what would happen if Apple had also started marketing backwards by starting with WHAT. This is what their marketing message would sound like:
"We make great computers. They're user friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. Want to buy one?"
Are you sold?! Probably not.
Compare that to what a real marketing message from Apple might actually sound like:
"With everything we do, we aim to challenge the status quo. We aim to think differently. Our products are user-friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?"
Did you notice the difference?