Start With Why - Book Review

April 12, 2023

To me, "Start with Why" suggests that when a new request comes in, it's essential to begin by asking for the reason behind it. Instead of focusing solely on the "what" or "how" of a task, I should consider why I am undertaking it in the first place.

According to Simon Sinek, understanding our "why"—our deeper motivation—better equips us to make decisions, stay motivated, and effectively communicate our message to others. Starting with why helps us create a clear and compelling vision of what we want to achieve, ensuring our actions align with our values and beliefs.

I believe that starting with "why" is a potent tool for both personal and professional growth. It enables us to tap into our deeper sense of purpose and create more meaningful outcomes in our lives. For instance, I can help a software developer on my team understand why they are building a feature requested by customers. Simultaneously, I can ask the customers why they have made such a request, enabling the team to understand their deeper motivations and propose better solutions.

Simon Sinek introduces the concept of the "Golden Circle" in his book. It's a framework that consists of three concentric circles: "Why," "How," and "What." The outer circle represents what an organization or individual does; the middle circle explains how they do it, and the innermost circle expresses why they do it.

Sinek argues that the most successful leaders and organizations start with "Why" and work their way outward. This approach inspires and engages others on an emotional level, leading to greater loyalty and success. Those who begin with "What" or "How" often struggle to stand out in a crowded market.

The Golden Circle is instrumental for my company, Thought Machine, where we are building the future of banking. It's crucial for my team to understand this and align our goals accordingly.

Sinek's statement, "People don't buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it," resonates with me. Customers are more likely to be drawn to a company that shares their values rather than just offers a particular product or service. At Thought Machine, this statement rings true; our mission is to employ the best modern software practices to run the world's banks, and clients who share these values are more likely to invest in our products and services.

Similarly, my clients are not just looking for technical skills; they seek a consultant who understands their unique challenges and is committed to delivering value beyond the scope of the project. In this context, the "why" of my team can be just as important as the "what" of the services provided.

Sinek's ideas closely relate to the concept of identity on both individual and organizational levels. Understanding one's "why" helps clarify personal identity and can serve as a unifying force within an organization, aligning employees, partners, and customers around a shared vision.

At Thought Machine, our "why" might be to revolutionize banking technology. Our "how" could involve leveraging cutting-edge technologies like cloud computing, and our "what" would be our specific products and services, such as our core banking platform, Vault. Starting with "why" allows us to articulate our purpose clearly and connect emotionally with stakeholders, fostering a sense of purpose and motivation among our employees.

Trust tends to emerge when we sense that another individual or organization is driven by something other than self-gain. When we perceive that someone is genuinely committed to a larger cause, trust and connection follow. This principle is highly relevant at Thought Machine, which seeks to transform the banking industry. Employees who share common values are more likely to trust each other and work collaboratively towards common goals.

Apple is another company that starts with "why." Its focus on innovation, design, and user experience has earned it global trust and respect. By prioritizing its "why," Apple has attracted top talent and fostered loyalty among customers, employees, and partners.

In conclusion, I highly recommend this book to anyone feeling lost in their endeavors. Asking yourself the simple question "why" can powerfully help you identify the purpose behind what you are doing.

Profile picture

Victor Leung, who blog about business, technology and personal development. Happy to connect on LinkedIn