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4.0 out of 5 stars WHY + HOW + WHAT = Simple & Catalytic, August 6, 2012
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This review is from: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (Paperback)
Simon Sinek put evidence behind a simple and powerful model everyone can use; in particular, leaders, entrepreneurs, marketers and strategists. Three questions are implicitly asked:

-- WHY do you do what you do and why should anyone care?
-- HOW will you get there?
-- WHAT specifically will you do?

Employees, customers and other stakeholders become more focused and motivated when you start with "why." Yet most companies focus on "what."

Sinek's primary contribution is to tie this framework to brain structure. He explains that before embarking on any new course of action, the limbic brain wants to know the WHY; and only after "why" is settled do our higher functions look at HOW and WHAT. Essentially, our higher functions cannot logically compare all the attributes of a decision, so we default to emotion and then justify with facts.

WHY > HOW > WHAT aligns with the military model of OBJECTIVE > STRATEGY > TACTICS, which is standard fare at business schools. I believe the model in this book is more useful for strategy development because it is simple, inquisitive and non-combative.

The behavioral insight behind this model has significant implications for those who labor to craft vision, mission and value statements. Most often these statement are externally focused, intellectually minded and packed with abstract language. Mission statements seem to be tailored for board meetings and Wall Street, not employees or customers. Few are memorable.

Starting with why drills right down to intent and emotion, which connects with the human desire to find meaning and purpose. The case is made that people are more likely to buy products and follow leaders who are driven by a compelling why.

Senik argues that leadership charisma comes from nothing more than passion for a higher purpose. He also points out that leaders who are driven by "why" need to have partners who attend to "how." For example, Walt Disney had the vision and his brother Roy made it work. Same with Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy, Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger.

Unfortunately, success tends to make companies focus on "what" at the expense of "why." Senik calls this the spit, and points to Walmart after Sam Walton, Starbucks after Howard Schultz, and growth problems at the Gap, Microsoft and Dell.

To me, WHY statements are inspiring, vivid and simple. Here are a few examples I like:

Google: "organize the world`s information and make it universally accessible and useful"
United States: "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"
Early Apple: "empower the individual to challenge the status quo"
LEGO: "invent the future of play"
Chipotle: "food with integrity"
Amazon: "be the earth's most customer-centric company"
Twitter: "To instantly connect people everywhere to what's most important to them."
Starbucks: "inspire and nurture the human spirit"
Skillshare: "transforming education by empowering teachers and democratizing learning"
Kickstarter: "worlds largest platform for creative projects"
Silk Road: "creating the finest employee experience"
Kahn Academy: "A free world-class education for anyone anywhere."
Costco: "quality goods and services at the lowest possible prices"
General Motors: "a car for every purse and purpose"

As a marketer, I work with some clients to focus on WHY rather than the traditional marketing focus on brand positioning. Not all companies or leaders can do this, but when they do, it is powerful.

In some ways, this book begin and ends with why. "How" and "what" are given short shrift, and perhaps that's all for the best, since these areas of inquiry are far more complex. At the same time, working through the how and what is where the hard work begins.

On the whole, "Start With Why" succeeds because it brings a useful model to the forefront and ties it to what we know about human behavior. The practical application could have been more clear, and the text rambles around too much.

For an excellent video overview, go online to watch Simon's TED talk.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't
Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World's Greatest Companies
Man's Search for Meaning
It's Not What You Sell, It's What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business Is Driven by Purpose
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