People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it. So says Simon Sinek in his book Start with Why. Most organisations just tell you what they do or how they do it, but Sinek argues that great companies start by answering the following why questions:
He gives the example of Apple as a company who starts with why, as follows:
We’ve been reminded of this book and asking ourselves these questions a lot recently both for ourselves as part of a couple of different projects, which we wanted to share through this post.
First of all, see below the mission statements of some very famous companies. Can you guess where they are from?
How many can you guess, and more importantly which is most meaningful and which do you believe? The answers are at the bottom of this post. I find it interesting that most of these, with the exception of number 2, are quite emotionally driven. Is this a reaction to the mechanistic way we micro-manage most businesses these days?
Asking why is also a great question in creative problem solving. The ‘5 Why’s Technique’ is an iterative question-asking technique used to explore the cause and effect relationships underlying a particular problem. The “5” in the name derives from an empirical observation on the number of iterations typically required to resolve the problem. Three examples of the 5 Why’s Technique are as follows:
Example 1 – The car won’t start.
Example 2 – The patient was late to the operating theatre.
Example 3 – Our client is unhappy
It is important to note that the real root cause should point toward a process that is not working well or does not exist. People will often observe that answers seem to point towards not enough time, investments, or manpower. These answers may be true, but they are often out of our control. Therefore, instead ask why did the process fail? A key phrase to keep in mind in any 5 Why exercise is “people do not fail, processes do”.
Coming back to Sinek’s original questions, in terms of how we would answer them ourselves I would attempt the following:
In summary, the answer to why questions is seldom straight-forward but tends to be some combination of being able to act faster, better, cheaper in some way. But it helps to dig a little deeper, to ask why again a few times to get to the root cause or motivation. It can be very revealing and save a lot of time by focussing on the right problem and can even help to point towards the solution. So next time you are communicating or problem solving, try starting with why, and see what difference it makes.
Answers to the mission statements pop quiz are as follows: 1. LEGO 2. Google 3. Nike 4. Coke 5. Bupa
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