We often bother about the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of our dreams and goals but never think about the ‘why’. If you’ve ever wondered how great leaders and tech pioneers inspired action from the masses, start with why.
Human beings are quick to overthink the wrong questions about certain events and things. We go about our daily lives assuming we know why we do what we do—but is this true? If we do know the reason why, then how come things don’t often go the way we assume?
The Why In Life & Business
Let’s consider the ‘why’ factor from a business perspective. Have you ever imagined how certain people (most of who are well documented) can achieve things that defy our usual assumptions? Think about Apple. How has this tech giant managed to stay innovative year after year without losing its sense of purpose and direction?
How do you explain Apple’s efficiency in staying ahead of the competition? Think about it for a second. Apple is just another computer company that shares similar access to the same talents, agencies, consultants, and media, with its many competitors. So how is Apple able to stay ahead of the pack with the same pool of resources?
From a political or social justice standpoint, why was Martin Luther King the leader of the Civil Rights Movements? Surely he wasn’t the only civil rights activist or the best orator in the country at that time. How then was he able to inspire and motivate thousands of people to fight for a specific cause?
We can still consider an invention angle. How were the Wright brothers able to beat better qualified and better-funded competitors to the creation of controlled, powered man flight? There’s something special these three pioneers all share in common.
And that special thing lies in the form of three letters: ‘why’.
Understanding the ‘Why’ of Things
According to Start with Why, the author of the book, Simon Sinek shares the foundations of the pattern that all great, inspiring leaders and organizations in the world have in common. Apple, Martin Luther King, or the Wright brothers; he says; all think, act and communicate in the same way—“and it’s the complete opposite to everyone else”’.
Simon manages to codify this rare pattern calling it the ‘golden circle’. This pattern consists of three foundations which are: Why, How, and What.
If you took the time to read the bios and ‘about sections’ of numerous founders and businesses, you will realize that:
1. Every single person and organization in the world knows what they do 100%
2. Some know how they do it
3. But only a few know people or organizations know why they do what they do.
The confusion kicks in at the ‘why’ because a lot of people don’t understand the concept of this question. From a business perspective, a ‘why’ does not necessarily mean …to make a profit. Because making a profit is a result—always a result—and should never be the ‘why’ of any business.
Instead, the ‘why’ question of a person or organization should lead to the interrogation of ‘cause’, ‘purpose’, ‘belief’, and ‘existence’. The most inspired leaders and organizations stand out because they all think, act, and communicate from the inside out.
The ‘Why’ of Apple
To better understand this concept, we analyze the purpose of tech giant Apple, and how they effectively communicated that to the rest of the world. You see, the problem with many startup firms is that they market their ‘unique’ services or products the same way. First, they say what they do; then they say how they’re different or better than the competition. But all this is pretty objective and doesn’t connect with the targeted audience.
No one hires a law firm because they claim they have the best lawyers. Neither does anyone buy from a car company because their cars have great gas mileage or leather seats? Most of the time, we buy an idea or item mainly because they subject us to a greater purpose than what is obvious.
If Apple was like everyone else, a marketing message from them would sound typical like: “We make great computers; they’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly, want to buy one?” I reckon you’ll pass on the product if you heard such a sales pitch—because it only communicates the ‘what’ and ‘how’, not the ‘why’. A message like this is uninspiring at best.
Here’s how Apple truly communicates: “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”
If you were confronted in the nineties by an Apple salesperson with this sort of message, you probably would make a purchase. That’s exactly how the top organizations, like Apple, get your attention. They reverse the order of the information. Once you understand that people don’t buy what you do but why you do it, your chances of convincing them to make a purchase are greatly increased.
The Power of the ‘Why’
In his book, Sinek makes it clear that the idea of the golden circle is not based on his opinions but is founded on biology itself—not psychology, biology. If you look at a cross-section of the human brain, you’ll find that the organ is broken into three major components that correlate perfectly with the tenets of the golden circle. Here’s how:
1. Our homo-Sapien brain, i.e. our neocortex corresponds with the ‘what’ level. The neocortex is responsible for all rational and analytical thought and language.
2. The middle two sections, ‘how’ and ‘why’ make up our limbic brains. This part of the brain is responsible for all of our feelings like trust and loyalty. It is also responsible for all human behavior, all decision-making, and has no capacity for language.
This means that, although people consume facts, features, benefits, and figures fast, the information does not affect human behavior. Many purchases in life are made without the consideration of the facts and figures but from the conviction which emanates from ‘gut feelings’.
Great leaders and organizations, over the years, understood one thing. To enable someone to take positive action on what you offer, you have to make them believe what you believe.
How to Use the ‘Why’ to Your Advantage
There is something called the Law of Diffusion of Innovation. This law breaks down the population into sections. The first is 2% of our population are innovators. The next 13% are the early adopters. The next 34% make up your early majority; another 34% for the late majority; and 16% for the laggards.
The market itself dangles between the early and late majority. However, the 13% early adopters set the threshold for mass-market success or mass idea adoption. Why, because the early majority will not try something until someone else has tried it first. This means that they rely on the experience of early adopters and innovators who are driven by their belief in the world.
These are the people who adopt ideas or buy a product to be the first and eventually prove what they believe. Think of the early majority as the thousands of people who line up 6 hours or more to get a new iPhone.
So Start With Why
People don’t buy what you do; they buy what you believe. What you do is simply proof of what you believe. Therefore, if you can successfully spread your belief to the first wave of early adopters, then you can tip the scales of the market in your favor. Rather than drone on about what you do, show people why they need what you do; and success will come.
Check out our previous Wellness & Self-Development article here.
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