Re-Starting with Why

Chances are most of you are already aware of Simon Sinek’s monumental piece of work by the name of “Start With Why“. I’ve used his TED talk in classes and presentations over the past couple of years, mostly as an interesting video to watch with hopes that it may spark some conversation.

You’ve also heard the expression “an idea whose time has come” – and boy did it. As of today, I’ve spent 2 to 3 hours every day for the past month crunching through what I thought would be an easy branding exercise. Applying Simon’s Golden Circle to my brand, content and work has yielded some incredible discoveries and even changes to the way I approach strategy work. I encourage you to watch the video below, even if you’ve already seen it.

Still a work in progress, verbalizing my WHY has been a struggle for close to a month now, but it’s led to some interesting observations:

We get stuck. We get stuck in our job, in our company, in market conditions, in our products and services, in our own marketing illusion. We get stuck because it’s easy. It doesn’t take much effort to do the same old, same old. There’s a security in it. So we construct an environment where we feel safe and start focusing inwards – making it incredibly hard to break the habit, look around and move forward.

Taking your own advice is hard. Going through this exercise, I often thought how much easier this would be if I was doing it for a client. After all, it’s so clear what they do and it would be so easy to dig out their why. Discovering your own (or your organization’s) reasons, the REAL reasons, why you get out of bed in the morning, what drives you to develop a new product or an app is harder then it seems. It’s kind of hard to get really excited about “meeting revenue targets” – it sounds more like a menial job then a calling.

Words don’t do it justice. Even when I thought I was close (several nights around 1AM), something still struck me the next day and we went for even a deeper dive. I used to work with a branding director who insisted on asking us “The 7 Whys” of every design or strategy decision. This process is more like asking a 100 whys. All in an effort to understand the core of your own motivation and behaviour. And when you get close, you struggle with finding the right words to express this new discovery. Which raises another issue – not only is it hard to verbalize for yourself, but how do you clearly verbalize it for your employees, customers or clients?

Most companies we encounter on a daily basis seem to have lost their way. Although they may have started with a purpose and passion, they now operate on a strictly “I do [blank] and you should choose us because we’re better” basis. There is little to nothing to connect with emotionally, making the purchasing experience little more then a price / feature comparison – which in the long run is nothing but a losing battle of commoditization of products and services.

So, after a month long struggle, here is my current version of why I do what I do: To learn, to try, to fail, to synthesize ideas, to discover insights and to share them. TO GIVE BACK.

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