Book Review: Start With Why


“People don't buy WHAT you do;they buy WHY you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe” Simon Sinek

Chances are many of you are familiar with Simon Sinek, TED speaker, author, and inspiration guru.  However, if it's been awhile since you've read or listened to his thoughts about establishing business priorities, his ideas are worth revisiting.

“There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.”

In fact, much of what you learn from the book is in his TED talk here.

Still, if you haven't ever read Start With Why, you should also put the book on your short list of foundational books.

“You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills.”

The material is easily read and  quickly absorbed. The wisdom is clear, concise, and practical.

“The role of a leader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.”

However, that's not to say the ideas are easily applied; organizations routinely have a problem applying "WHY."

“Leadership requires two things: a vision of the world that does not yet exist and the ability to communicate it.”

Companies always know what they do and how they do it, but they seem to miss the boat about WHY, and WHY, according to Sinek, is what inspires and motivates people. WHY is never about revenue or profits - those are results.

Just yesterday I read (here) how Dick's Sporting Goods, like Sports Authority before them, has lost its way and,  in the light of this book, it makes perfect sense; they aren't inspiring. Consider this quote lifted from Business Insider about Dick's Sporting Goods:

"In a press release, the company said that for the forthcoming year it would "make strategic investments of between $50 to 55 million in 2016 to enhance its shopping experience, build its brand equity and transition its eCommerce business."

Are you inspired?

Neither am I.

In fact, after you read this book it's easy to pull every example through the grid of WHY. Those who have a clear message about WHY they are doing what they are doing usually inspire people to follow them. Even when the product is inferior, clarity often trumps excellence. (DVRs vs Tivo for example)

If you're like me, you'll probably tire of Sinek's Apple infatuation (and I'm an Apple fan) and also tire of seeing WHY in all caps (hasn't it bugged you in this post?), but these are piddly distractions from an otherwise solid business read...

“Regardless of WHAT we do in our lives, our WHY—our driving purpose, cause or belief—never changes.”

and a great reminder to always ask "why?"