LEARNING FROM BOOKS: START WITH WHY
BY SIMON SINEK
Why are some people and organizations more innovative, pioneering and successful than others? And why are they able to repeat their success again and again?
Because in business, it doesn’t matter what you do, it matters why you do it.
This book has taught me a lot. I would like to share my learning with you.
- Samuel Pierpont Langley and the Wright brothers both were trying to make a plane. SP Langley was very well known, had all the best resources – men, money and materials. On the other hand Wright Brothers only had the money from their bicycle shop and they were hardly known. Yet on December 17, 1903, a small group of men witnessed a man taking flight for the first time in history. It was the Wright brothers.
- How did the Wright brothers succeed where the better – equipped, better – funded and better – educated team led by SP Langley could not?
- It wasn’t luck. Both the Wright brothers and Langley were highly motivated. Both had a strong work ethic. Both had keen scientific minds. They were pursuing exactly the same goal.
- But only the Wright brothers were able to inspire those around them and truly led their team to develop a technology that would change the world. Only the Wright brothers started with Why.
- Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs were not the only people taking part in the personal computer revolution. They weren’t the smartest guys in the business. In fact they did not know much about the business at all. What made Apple special was not their ability to build such a fast paced company. It wasn’t their ability to think differently about personal computers. What has made Apple special is that they have been able to repeat the pattern over and over again. Unlike any other competitors, Apple has successfully challenged the conventional thinking within the computer industry, the small electronics industry, the music industry, the mobile phone industry and the broader entertainment industry. And the reason is simple. Apple inspires. Apple starts with Why.
- Martin Luther King was not perfect. He has his complexities. The ability to attract so many people from across the country, of all colours and races, to join together on the right day, at the right time, took something special. Though others knew what had to change in America to bring about a civil rights for all, it was Martin Luther King, who was able to inspire a country to change, not just for the good of the minority, but for the good of everyone. Martin Luther King started with Why.
- The ability to motivate people in itself, is not very difficult. It is usually tied to some external factor. Tempting incentives or a threat of punishment will often elicit behaviour we desire. General Motors, for example, so successfully motivated people to buy their products that they sold cars more than any other automaker in the world for over 77 years. Though they were leaders in the industry, they did not lead.
- Great leaders, in contrast, are able to inspire people to act. Those who are able to inspire, give people a sense of purpose, or belonging that has little to do with any external incentive or benefit to be gained.
- People who love to go to work are more productive and creative. They go home happier and have happier families. They treat their colleagues, customers and clients better. Inspired employees make for stronger companies and stronger economies.
- Our behaviour is affected by our assumptions or our perceived truths. We make our decisions based on what we think we know.
- The reality is that most businesses today are making decisions based on a set of incomplete or, worse, completely flawed assumptions about what’s driving their business.
- There are two ways to influence a human behaviour – you can manipulate it, or you can inspire it.
- From business to politics, manipulation run rampant in all forms of sales and marketing. Typical manipulation includes – dropping the price, running a promotion, using fear or peer pressure or aspirational messages and promising innovation to influence a behaviour.
- When companies or organizations do not have a clear sense of why their customers are their customers, they tend to rely on a disproportionate number of manipulations to get what they need. And for good reason. Manipulations work.
- Price always cost something. The question is, how much are we willing to pay for the money we make?
- The manipulative nature of promotions is so well established in retail that the industry even named one of its principles. They call it breakage. Breakage measures the percentage of customers who fail to take advantage of a promotion and end up paying the full price of the product. This typically happens when the buyers don’t bother to perform the necessary steps to claim their rebates, a process purposely kept complicated or inconvenient to increase the likelihood of mistakes or inaction to keep the breakage number up.
- When fear is employed, facts are incidental. Deeply seated in our biological drive to survive, that emotion cannot be quickly wiped away with facts and figures. This is how terrorism works. Its not the statistical probability that one could be hurt by a terrorist. But it is the fear that it might happen that cripples the population.
- “Quitting smoking is the easiest thing I have done. I have done it hundreds of time” Mark Twain.
- If fear motivates us to move away from something horrible, messages tempt us to towards something desirable.
- Though positive in nature, aspirational messages are most effective with those who lack the discipline or have a nagging fear or insecurity that they don’t have the ability to achieve their dreams on their own. I always joke that you can get someone to buy a gym equipment using an aspirational message, but to get them to go on that equipment requires a lot of inspiration.
- Someone who lives a healthy life style and exercises regularly does not respond to “six easy steps of losing weight”. It’s those who don’t have the lifestyle that are most susceptible.
- Beyond the business world, manipulations are the norm in politics today as well. Just as manipulation can drive a sale but not create loyalty, so too can help a candidate get elected but they don’t create a foundation for leadership.
- Leadership requires people to stick with you through thick and thin. Leadership is the ability to rally people not for a single event but for years. In business, leadership means that customers will support your company even when you slip up sometimes.
- There is a big difference between repeat business and loyalty. Repeat business is when people do business with you multiple times. Loyalty is when, people are willing to turn down a better offer, a better product or a better price to continue doing business with you.
- Loyal customer often don’t bother to research the competition or entertain other options.
- Loyalty is not easily won. Repeat business however is. All it takes is more manipulations.
- Manipulations lead to transaction not loyalty.
- Manipulations work, but they cost a lot of money. When money is not available to fund these tactics, not having loyal customers really hurts.
- After September 11, there were customers who sent cheques to Southwest Airlines to show their support. One note that accompanies a $1000 read, “You have been so good to me over the years, in this hard times, I wanted to say thank you, by helping you out.” The cheques that Southwest Airlines received certainly were not enough to make a significant impact on the bottom line, but they were symbolic of the feeling the customers had for the brand. They had a sense of partnership. The loyal behaviour of those who did not send money, is impossible to measure, but its impact has been invaluable over the long term helping Southwest Airlines to maintain its position as the most profitable airlines in history.
- Knowing you have a loyal customers and employees not only reduces cost, it gives you immense peace of mind. Like loyal friends, you know these loyal customers and employees will be with you when you need them the most. It is a feeling of “WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER”.
- In contrast, relying on manipulation creates massive stress for the buyer and seller alike.
- THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
There are a few leaders who choose to inspire rather than manipulate in order to motivate people. Whether individuals of organization, every single of these inspiring leaders thinks, acts and communicates exactly the same way.
WHAT: every single company and the organization in this planet knows WHAT they do. This is not matter how big or small , no matter what industry. Everyone is able to describe the products or services the company sells or the job function they have within that system. WHAT’s are easy to understand.
HOW: some companies and people know HOW they do WHAT they do. Whether you call them a differentiating value proposition or unique selling proposition, HOWs are often given to explain how something is different or better. Not as obvious as WHATs, many think these are the differentiating and motivating factors in a decision. It would be false to assume thats all what is required. There is one missing detail:
WHY: very few people or companies clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. When I say WHY, I don’t mean to make money – thats a result. By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief. WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of the bed each morning? And WHY should anyone care?
When most organizations and people think, act or communicate, they do so from outside in from WHAT to WHY. And for good reason – they go from the clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. We say WHAT we do, we sometimes say HOW we do, but we rarely say WHY we do WHAT we do.
33. But not the inspired companies. Not the inspired leaders. Every single one of them, regardless of the size of the industry, thinks, acts and communicates from the inside out from WHY to WHAT.
34. WHAT companies do are external factors, but WHY they do is something deeper.
35. People don’t buy WHAT you do, but WHY you do it. This is the reason APPLE has earned a remarkable level of flexibility. People are obviously comfortable buying a computer from APPLE. Their products give life to their cause.
36. The newest area of the brain, our Homo Sapien brain, is the neo cortex which corresponds to the WHAT level. The neo cortex is responsible for the rational and the analytical thought.
The middle two sections comprise the limbic brain. The limbic brain is responsible for all the feelings, such as trust and loyalty. It is also responsible for the human behaviour and all our decision making.
37. When we are communicating from the outside in, from the WHAT area, people can understand vast amount of data, facts and figures, but it does not drive behaviour. But when we communicate from inside out, from WHY area, we are talking directly to the brain that controls decision making and this helps us to rationalize our decisions.
38. This is what we mean when we talk about winning hearts and minds. The heart represents the limbic brain, feeling part of the brain and the mind is the rational centre. Most companies are quite adept at winning minds. All that requires is a comparison of features and benefits. Winning hearts, however takes more work.
39. The power of the limbic brain is astounding. It not only controls our gut decisions, but it can influence us to do things, that seem illogical and irrational. Leaving the safety at home to explore faraway places. Crossing oceans to see what is on the other side. Leaving a job starting a business of your own out of your basement with no money in the bank. Many of us look at these decisions and say, “Thats stupid. You are crazy. You could lose everything. You could get yourself killed. What are you thinking?” It is not logic or facts, but our hopes and dreams, our hearts and our guts that drive us to try new things.
40. Products with a clear sense of WHY gives people a way to tell the outside world, who they are and what they believe. Remember people don’t buy WHAT you do but WHY you do it.
41. Understanding HOW you do things and more importantly, having the discipline to hold the organization and all its employees accountable to those guiding principles enhances the organization’s ability to work to its natural strengths. Understanding HOW gives greater ability, for example to hire people or find partners who will naturally thrive when working with you.
42. Everything you say and prove you do has to prove what you believe. A WHY is just a belief. HOW are the actions you take to realize that belief. And WHAT’s are the results of those actions. If people don’t buy WHAT you do but WHY you do it, then all things must be consistent. With consistency people will see and hear without a shadow of doubt, what you believe.
43. Ask a best salesman what it takes to be a great sales man. They will always tell you, it helps when you really believe in the product you are selling. What does belief has to do with selling? Simple. When the salesman believes in what they are selling, all the words that come out of their mouth is authentic. Passion exudes from the salesman. Relationship also builds trust.
44. It is a false assumption that differentiation happens in HOW and WHAT you do. Simply offering high quality product with more features and better service or a better price does not create the difference. Doing so guarantees no success. Differentiation happens in WHY and HOW you do it. Southwest isn’t the best airlines in the world. Nor are they the cheapest. They have fewer routes than many of their competitors and they don’t even fly outside the USA. WHAT they do is not always significantly better. But WHY they do it is crystal clear and everything they do proves it. There are many ways to motivate people to do things, but loyalty comes from the ability to inspire people. Only when WHY is clear and the people believe what you believe can a true loyal relationship develop.
45. The ability to put a WHY into words provides the emotional context for decisions. It offers greater confidence than “I think it is right”. It is more scalable than “I feel it is right”. When you know your WHY the highest level of confidence you can offer is “I know it is right.”
46. If a company mistreats its people, just watch how their employees treat their customers. Mud rolls down the hill, and if you are standing at the bottom, you get hit with the full brunt. In a company, thats usually the customer who is treated the worst.
47. Trust does not emerge simply because a seller makes a rational case why a customer should buy a product or service, or because an executive promises change. Trust is not a checklist. Fulfilling all your responsibilities does not create trust. Trust is a feeling, not a rational experience. We trust some people and companies even when things go wrong. And we don’t trust others even though everything ahs gone exactly as it should have been. Trust begins to emerge when we have a sense that another person or organization is driven by things other than self gain.
48. Leading is not the same as being a leader. Being a leader means you hold the highest rank, either by earning it, good fortune, or navigating internal politics.
49. Leading however means, others are willing to follow you – not because they have to, but because they want to.
50. The reason why human has been so successful is not because we are the strongest animal – far from it. Size and might alone does not guarantee success. We’ve succeeded as a species because of our ability to form cultures. Cultures are group of people who share the common set of values and beliefs.
51. Now consider what a company is. Company is a culture. A group of people brought together around some common beliefs and values. Its not the product and services that bind a company together. Its not the size and might which makes the company strong. Its the culture – strong sense of beliefs and values that everyone from the CEO to the receptionist, all share. So the logic follows – the goal is not hire people who have the requisite skills and knowledge, the goal is to hire people who believe what you believe.
52. Herb Kelleher of South West Airlines said, “ We don’t hire for skills. We hire for attitude. We can always teach skills.” This is the easy part. What if the attitude does not fit the organization’s culture?
53. Kelleher continues, “We only hire passionate people. Every person on this earth is passionate. The important thing is to know are they passionate with the same things you are passionate?” Starting with WHY dramatically increases you ability to attract those who are passionate for what you believe.”
54. Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them. They hire already motivated people and inspire them. People are either motivated or they are not. Unless you give the motivated people something to believe in, something bigger than their job to work toward, they will motivate themselves to find a new job and you’ll be stuck with whoever’s left.
55. Companies with a strong sense of WHY are able to inspire their employees. Those employees are more productive and innovative. And the feeling they bring to the work attracts other people to work like that as well.
56. The role of a leader is not to come out with great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.
57. Steve Jobs, for example, did not personally come up with the iPod, iTunes or iPhone. Others inside the company did. Jobs just gave the people the filter, the context and the higher purpose around which to innovate. This is WHY Apple was founded. It is what Jobs and Wozniak did when they started the company, and it is what Apple products and people done ever since. Apple’s employees simply look for ways to bring their cause to life in as many places as they can. And it works.
58. Apple’s remarkable knack for innovation and the Wright brothers ability to develop the technology with the team they had were all possible for the same reason – they believed they could and they trusted their team to do it.
59. Trust is a remarkable thing. Trust allows us to rely on us. We rely on those we trust for advice to help us make decisions. Trust is the bedrock for the advancement of our own lives, our families, our companies, our societies and our species.
60. Southwest Airlines, renowned for its customer focus, does not, as a matter of policy, believe the customer is always right. Southwest will not tolerate customers who abuse their staff. They would rather want those customers fly a different airline. It is a subtle irony, that one of the best customer service company in the country focuses on its employees first before its customers.
61. When a journalist asked Kelleher, who comes first to him, his shareholders or his employees, his response is, “Well, thats easy. Employees come first, if the employees are treated right, they would treat the outside world right, and the world uses the product over and over again and that makes the shareholders happy.”
62. 2.5%: INNOVATORS
13.5% : EARLY ADAPTORS
34%: EARLY MAJORITY
34%: LATE MAJORITY
63. Manipulation is different from loyalty. You can manipulate customers to buy from you, but they wont be loyal. Don’t forget loyalty is when people are willing to suffer some inconvenience or pay a premium to do business with you. They may even turn down a better offer from some other company.
64. Energy excites. Charisma inspires.
65. Energy motivates, but charisma inspires. Energy is easy to see, easy to measure and easy to copy. Charisma is hard to define, almost impossible to measure and too elusive to copy. All great leaders have charisma because all great leaders have the clarity of WHY – an undying belief in a purpose or cause bigger than themselves.
68. Charisma has nothing to do with energy. It comes from a clarity of WHY. It comes from absolute conviction in an ideal bigger than oneself. Energy, in contrast comes from a good night sleep or lots of caffeine. Energy can excite, but only charisma can inspire. Charisma commands loyalty. Energy does not.
69. Say it only if you believe it.
70. Speak clearly and you shall be clearly understood.
71. Communication is not about speaking. It is about listening.
72. Disney operates from a clear sense of WHY. They exist to promote good, clean family fun and entertainment. The reason we trust Disney is simple – we know what they believe. They have been so consistent over time in every thing they say or do, that the parents trust them to leave their children in Disneyland to have all the fun, and they return over and over again with more friends and families.
73. Walton of Walmart said, “Celebrate your success, but also find some humour in your failures. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Loosen up and everyone around you will looses up. “
74. Success and achievement are not the same thing, yet many times we mistake one for the other. Achievement is something you reach or attain like your goal. Success, on the other hand is a feeling, it is a state of being.
75. Achievement comes when you pursue the WHAT, success happens when you pursue the WHY. The former is motivated by tangible factors, while the latter is something deeper in the brain, a feeling that is difficult to put in words.
76. A wise man once said, “Money cant buy happiness, but it pays for the yacht to pull alongside it.” The yacht represents achievement, it is easily seen and with the right intent completely attainable. Success, on the other hand is hard to define. It is much more harder to see and attain. This is one of the reasons why some so called successful people, who have attained everything in life is still not happy. The reason is they have got achievement, but they have not got success.
77. The reason why small businesses fail is because passion alone cannot do it. For passion to survive, it needs structure. A WHY without the HOW, passion without structure, has a very high probability of failure. Remember the dot.com boom? Lots of passion but no structure.
78. What gets measured, gets done.
79. If you look back at the history of Starbucks, it thrived, not because of its coffee, but because of the experience it offered to the customers. It was Schultz who brought in the WHY to Starbucks.
80. Look after people and people will look after you. Walton and Wal-Mart proved it. Walton insisted on showing up for work every Saturday out of fairness for his store employees who had to work at the weekends. He remembered the birthdays and anniversaries of each of his employees even when one of the mother of an employee had a gall bladder, he did not forget to send a “Get well soon” card along with a flower bouquet.
81. Every company, organization or a group with the ability to inspire others, starts with a person or a small group of people, who were inspired to do something bigger than themselves. Gaining clarity of WHY, ironically , is not the hard part. It is the discipline of trust one’s gut, to stay true to ones purpose, cause and beliefs. Remaining completely in balance and authentic is the most difficult part.
82. Henry Ford rightly said, “If you think you can and if you think you cannot, either way you will be right.”
83. If you follow your WHY, others will follow you.
84. When you compete against others, no one wants to help you, as every one is a competitor. But when you compete against yourself, everyone wants to help you.
85. Now think how we do our business. We are always competing against others. We are always trying to be better than someone else. Better quality, better features, better service. We are always camparing ourselves with others. And no one wants to help us. What if we show up everyday to do better ourselves? What if we compared ourselves to ourselves alone as to how we did our work better than last week or last month? Try it out. You would be amazed how much help you would get from others.
86. Imagine if every organization started with WHY. Decisions would be simpler. Loyalties would be greater. Trust would be common currency. If our leaders were diligent about starting with WHY, optimism would reign and innovation would thrive.
87. NO MATTER THE SIZE OF THE ORGANIZATION, NO MATTER THE INDUSTRY, NO MATTER THE PRODUCT OR SERVICE, IF WE WILL ALL TAKE RESPONSIBILITY TO START WITH WHY AND INSPIRE OTHERS TO DO THE SAME, THEN, TOGETHER WE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD. AND THATS PRETTY INSPIRING!!