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Start With Why

How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
Sep 07, 2020
Obviously, I have seen the author's TED talk on the same topic and that was the reason I resisted picking up this book for a long time, as I thought everything I needed to know about the topic had already been said in the talk! But when I read the preface of the book casually one day, it was all about what was proposed in that smash-hit talk. That only meant that surely the book had a lot more to offer! And it did. (And if you haven't watched the talk, please give it a gander) "Start With Why" by Simon Senek basically embodies the idea that everyone should have a purpose for everything they do, and that the purpose is typically a "higher" purpose, something that motivates in the long-term, and is not "money"! The book is teeming with analogies in support of the theory of "Golden Circle" from Apple, Harley Davidson, Southwest Airlines, Continental Airlines etc, and also has stories from many, like Dell, post Walton-era Walmart, Motorola, even Microsoft Zune etc in support of the theory from a negative angle. Very simply put, the theory of "Golden Circle", or the extended theory of "Golden Cone" states that successful companies and individuals start with "Why", then elaborate their plan in "HOW", and then give details and numbers in "What", while the mediocre and unsuccessful ones start with "What", thereby throwing numbers and data at consumers which largely goes ignored.  While I have my own theories about this theory, there's no doubt the idea of "Golden Circle" and "starting with Why" is motivating to the core. When I was at Zynga, irrespective of what game I was working on, or what tech stack I was building, I was certainly inspired by their WHY - "Connecting the world through games". In a way, that mission kept a lot of people motivated who in turn linked their individual work to that mission. But obviously, there are exceptions to all theories, and this is no exception. Apple had a lot of failed products, iSight to name just one! If consumers were fine buying whatever Apple made, iSight would have been a blockbuster. It wasn't. Moreover, as the author says, if Apple's WHY is largely inspired by Jobs's rebellious nature, then his other ventures like Next should have been equally successful too. That's not the case. That said, I do believe in the like that's repeated a gazillion times in the book - "People don't buy what you do, people buy why you do". I'm sure we have all experienced it in our lives.  Another aspect of the book I liked is that it has a lot of case studies, albeit explained in a not so technical manner. The case of Motorola's RAZR, Microsoft Zune, American auto industry's rebate model, the story of Japanese auto assembly line workers not having to fix their door, TAG Heuer's Golf watch story, the legendary story of Baring Bank and its rouge investor that brought it down, the TiVo and SiriusXM use-cases, Jim Sinegal's Costco model etc have been explained in a very captivating way. The most inspiring of all is the story of the ship Endurance (the one that was supposed to explore Antarctica) and its chief explorer Shackleton's landmark ad in London Times that read - "Men wanted for Hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success." Overall, I think the book is a very inspiring read, even if you have watched Simon Sinek's TED Talk.