Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Start with Why is Leaf Non-Fiction book on leadership.

Inspiration is belonging and purpose that occurs without regard to incentives. Motivation is because of trying to obtain positive incentives or avoid negative ones (carrot and stick).

Assume You Know

  • Assumptions (right or wrong) change behavior
  • Even with data collection, the wrong choice can be made because of the wrong assumption
  • Gut v. Rationale Decision making
  • Engineer the outcome you want to achieve from the start
  • So many organization apply tactile solutions to fix failures in the plan. Higher performing organizations build products and companies that fit that original intention. Start with a decision to design the door to fit rather than manipulate the door to fit.

Carrots and Sticks

  • Most business do not know why they have their customers or their employees. And therefore, are taking steps to get/retain both based on flawed assumptions

Behavior can be manipulated or inspired.

  • When businesses do not know why they have have customers they fall back on manipulation (e.g. price, promotions,).
    • Dropping price results in commoditization
    • Promotions: give something for free to get a customer to buy.
    • Fear: fear of a negative outcome (“no body ever got fired for buying IBM”)
    • Aspiration: temptation with what we want to achieve/be/etc. Aspiration pushes for short term behaviors to achieve long term desires that like the inspiration/system to stick with them
    • Peer Pressure:
    • Novelty: small changes that appear “innovative”, but are really just small incremental changes. Too much incremental novelty goes in a similar pattern too much price cutting, the “novelty” becomes commodity
  • The price you pay for the money you make.
  • Manipulations are short term and do not breed loyalty. Manipulations, carrots and sticks, are best for single-transaction relationships. Manipulations cost money and conversely loyalty saves money and creates peace of mind.
  • Manipulations have become systemic and that imposes pressure and eventually lead to collapse (e.g. housing market in 2008)

The Golden Circle

  • Comes from the golden ratio.
  • Start from the outside-in: start with why [What [ How [ Why ] ] ]
  • What to do or what you want to do
  • How are how we accomplish our what(s)
  • Why is an articulation of why we do things. What is our purpose, cause, belief. Why does your company exist?
  • Most articulation in the market starts with the what (we make great computers, they are easy to use, want to buy one? (call to action))
  • Leasers start with the why: “We bleieve in thinking differently and challenging the status quo. We do this by creating ease to use products and we happen to make computers. Want to buy one?”
  • People don’t by what you do, they buy why you do it.
  • A company defined by what it does will not be as agile as a company that is defined by why. For example, railroads were defined as being railroads as opposed to being defined as being in the mass transport business.

This is not opinion, this is biology

  • We crave the feeling of belonging, and we trust those who have common values and beliefs.
  • Communicating why creates a community to which people want to belong
  • “We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe. Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us.”
  • Sinek argues that the neocortex processes higher level information / speech etc. Whereas the limbic brain processes emotions and feelings. He draw a parallel to his what wrapping how wrapping why to the neocortex wrapping the limbic brain.
    • He also argues that the describing feelings is hard because the language part is the neocortex wheras feelings exist in the limbic
    • Sinek argues that “gut” feel decisions occur the limbic system. He argues that overthinking comes adding too much information to the neocortex.
    • Both of these ideas seem simplistic
    • One idea I did like here is that the provide information for “what” just gives us information to justify the decision we made about the “Why”.
    • Idea that you can’t trust users/customers to explain clearly what the want, often times they don’t know themselves.

Clarity, discipline, and consistency

  • Clarity of why is the easy thing but fundamental to providing the context for how things are done
  • The how you execute is the difficult part because it must be consistent with the why
  • The “whats” are the proof that the how is occuring according to the why
  • From that consistency, builds trust from the consumer and from trust comes relationships and loyalty
  • Loyalty is how you avoid becoming a commodity
  • Useful analogy of dating and business, braggart of things, vs. a person who articulates what they are passionate and what they have derived from it


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