Dec 11, 2015

Book Review: Start with Why by Simon Senek

Simon Senek's Start with Why is one of the best books I have read in 2015. The underlying message by the author is very simple but we often overlook it, given the noise around us.
"People don't buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it"
Inspiring leaders and organizations are so clear about their WHY - their purpose, cause or belief. WHAT they do serves as a tangible proof of their WHY. The author has covered relevant examples throughout the book to reinforce this concept - be it Apple, Harley Davidson, Starbucks, Southwest Airlines or Walmart. The vision of their founders clearly demonstrate their WHY.

Apart from an organization's context, the author has also talked about why this concept is relevant for any leader who inspires others. The examples of Wright Brothers and Dr.Martin Luther King showcase how an individual can inspire a group of people by being clear about their WHY.

I found the concept of "Golden circle" to be extremely relevant for today's startups as the main issue they face is how to communicate the value of their product/service to their customers.

At the core of the golden circle lies WHY. Why do you exist as a company? what is your purpose, cause or belief? Why should anyone care? Can you clearly articulate why you do what you do?
The second layer is the HOW. How are you different or better? What is your core value proposition?
The third layer is the WHAT. What do you do? What products or services do you offer?

Your WHY should influence any decision you take related to HOW or WHAT you do.

Most companies talk about their WHAT and HOW but only great companies are able to articulate their WHY. Too much focus on HOW results in "manipulations", as the author claims. Manipulations are short term tactics to gain customers but they will never be loyal. Discounts, promotions and playing on emotions like fear and peer pressure are all examples of manipulative tactics. Few leaders and organizations choose to inspire rather than manipulate in order to influence behavior. They are clear about their WHY so well that they are able to inspire "early adopters" who believe in their cause.

As organizations grow, they face a "split" stage where their WHAT is no longer in sync with their WHY. This happens typically when the founder leaves, new leaders take over and change the direction of the company.

Though the message is repetitive, the examples made for a very interesting read and I was able to relate to most of the author's arguments. I highly recommend this book to all startup founders and leaders of organizations. If you are short on time, do listen to his TED talk on the same topic.

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