Wrestling with “Why” We Do “What” We Do

I’m re-reading Simon Sinek’s Start with Why right now.  It really has so much gold that we can talk about.  At the root of the book is the simple and profound idea that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

He uses this illustration to tease out the idea.  What he points out is that most organizations actually talk about their products or services (what they do) when they should be talking about why they do what they do.

Here’s a quote:

WHAT: Every single company and organization on the planet knows WHAT they do.

HOW: Some companies and people know HOW they do WHAT they do.

WHY: Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do.  When I say WHY, I don’t mean to make money—that’s a result.  By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief.  WHY does your company exist?  WHY do you get out of bed every morning?  And WHY should anyone care?  (p. 39)

Now, I think this has profound implications for the business we’re in (you probably know that I think knowing the business we’re in is the very first thing we ought to figure out).

So…I think we all know what we do.  I’m not sure we’ve thought enough about why we do it.

Here’s another quote from the book:

When communicating from the inside out, however, the WHY is offered as the reason to buy and the WHATs serve as the tangible proof of that belief. (p. 42)

WHAT Apple makes, serve as tangible roof of what they believe.  It is that clear correlation between WHAT they do and WHY they do it that makes Apple stand out.  This is the reason we perceive Apple as being authentic.  Everything they do works to demonstrate their WHY, to challenge the status quo.  Regardless of the products they make or industry in which they operate, it is always clear that Apple ‘thinks different.’” (p. 43)

So if Apple’s WHY is to challenge the status quo, what is your WHY?

What do you think?  Want to take a shot at your “why”? Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

By the way, I’ve linked to his TED video in the past.  Easily one of the most fascinating talks I’ve ever heard.  And if you haven’t read Start with Why…I highly recommend it!

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