Book Review | Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Start with Why | by Simon Sinek

TLDR: The reason some companies and people do better and are more successful, in the long term, is because they know WHY they do what they do. Others, who focus on WHAT, and HOW they do what they do, suffer.

What Amazon Says

Sinek starts with a fundamental question: Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty from customers and employees alike? Even among the successful, why are so few able to repeat their success over and over?

People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers had little in common, but they all started with WHY. They realized that people won’t truly buy into a product, service, movement, or idea until they understand the WHY behind it.

START WITH WHY shows that the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same way — and it’s the opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with WHY.

What I Say

One of the better books on basic leadership, as it approaches the WHY someone does something. Many people focus on what they produce, or how they produce results, but most forget the reason why they do it in the first place.

Sinek uses plenty of stories to explain his thinking, and some become redundant after a while, but still serve a good purpose. Part of the book reads as an Apple commercial, and he even proposes you’d might prefer one after his pitch (no worries, I already am an Apple fan).

Sinek uses Apple as an example throughout the book to point to a company that at its core focuses on ‘why’, and henceforth, all their products reflect their simple message or ‘Think Different‘.

‘’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.
And we happen to make great computers’’

Sinek, about Apple, Inc.

Other companies sell computers, too, but too much effort is spent on specs, and results, and selling using rebates and incentives – all mechanisms that lead to short term gains, but long term unrealized loss, or even upending the business. Tivo is noted as a counter example, where everyone knows, still, what they do and what the service is all about, but few realize why they do it… and so the company has suffered greatly.

Sinek shares a few models to take away, and while these are not shortcuts to reading the book, and appreciating the surrounding stories (which Sinek is very good at), there were three major take aways for me – the Golden Circle model, the Law of Diffusion of Innovation model, and the ‘How’ and ‘Why’ types of people.

If you’re in a hurry, see the video below for two of the major concepts from the book. Pick up the paperback for extended stories and explanations.

the Golden Circle model

This is how Sinek explains the Golden Circle model:

WHAT: Every single company and organisation on the planet knows WHAT they do. This is true no matter how big or small, no matter what industry. Everyone is easily able to describe the products or services a company sells or the job function they have within the system. WHATs are easy to identify.

HOW: Some companies and people know HOW they do WHAT they do. Whether you call them a ‘’differentiating value proposition’’ or ‘’unique selling proposition,’’ HOWs are often given to explain how something is different or better. Not as obvious as WHATs , and many think these are the differentiating or motivating factors in a decision. It would be false to assume that’s all that is required. There is one missing detail.

WHY: Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. This isn’t about making money – that’s a result. WHY is all about your purpose, cause or belief. WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed in the morning? And WHY should anyone care?

Here’s the video of Sinek explaining both the Golden Circle, and the Law of Diffusion of Innovation:

the Law of Diffusion of Innovation model

From Wikipedia’s article:

Diffusion of innovations is a theory that seeks to explain how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread. Everett Rogers, a professor of communication studies, popularized the theory in his book Diffusion of Innovations; the book was first published in 1962, and is now in its fifth edition (2003). Rogers argues that diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated over time among the participants in a social system. The origins of the diffusion of innovations theory are varied and span multiple disciplines.

Rogers proposes that four main elements influence the spread of a new idea: the innovation itself, communication channels, time, and a social system. This process relies heavily on human capital. The innovation must be widely adopted in order to self-sustain. Within the rate of adoption, there is a point at which an innovation reaches critical mass.

The categories of adopters are innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. Diffusion manifests itself in different ways and is highly subject to the type of adopters and innovation-decision process. The criterion for the adopter categorization is innovativeness, defined as the degree to which an individual adopts a new idea.

The tipping point (an excellent book by Malcolm Gladwell) comes when the late majority adopts the new trait, behavior, or product, and the innovation becomes self-sustaining.

about How Types & Why Types (Mission & Vision)

Sinek discusses the friction between people that are either they ‘How’ type, or the ‘Why’ type, and how they can work together to accomplish something. If, however, you lack one or the other, things don’t get done… as efficiently, anyways.

My Rating 👓👓👓 / 4

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