Start with why but…
don't forget what, when, how, where and who
Most business and marketing consultants, it seems, have a ‘thing’ for Simon Sinek and his book, ‘Start with why’.
So, let’s start with the ‘Start with Why’ talk
In case you’ve not yet worked with a business or marketing consultant, here’s what they’ll almost certainly talk to you about – Sinek giving his talk about the big word ‘Why’… and why it’s so important – in his view.
It’s fair to say, however, that not everyone is convinced by the value of Sinek’s work and you might say he’s something of a ‘Marmite’ character.
(for those outside the UK this means that, like the vegetable extract spread, some people love this guy, while others are really not impressed!)
However, there’s no question that Sinek has enjoyed success with his single question idea that focusing on your ‘why’ (your purpose) can significantly lift your motivation to get on with your project and, if communicated well, can help to motivate your team too.
This idea goes back a long way
Of course, this idea about the value of our ‘why’ goes back a long way before Sinek – certainly to Nietzsche and possibly long before that.
He who has a WHY to live can bear with almost any HOW
And, interestingly, that powerful quote was one of the things that helped Victor Frankl survive his own incarceration (and loss of his family) in the Nazi concentration camps during World War II.
So, it’s an extremely powerful idea for sure.
But whilst, as Michael Schein points out, we can learn from Sinek’s marketing tactics, I think we should look for deeper Insights than Sinek offers.
I also think Mencken’s observation here is worth remembering. The challenges we face in the world are not helped by having so many people offering simple answers to complex problems.
This is not to say that I think Sinek is wrong. We know from Nietzsche and Frankl about the importance of having a ‘why’.
I’m just saying there’s a lot more to success than getting your ‘purpose’ sorted out.
And, I devoted a whole chapter of my first book, ‘Who can you trust about money?’ to this issue of how we’re drawn in and misled by the Siren calls of ‘quick and simple’ ideas.
Oversimplification is attractive, yes, but seldom helpful.
Understanding how ‘why’ is used to engage us.
The ‘why?’ question is powerful because it engages our emotions, and when we’re emotionally engaged we’re open to suggestion.
Indeed, PR and Advertising people have understood this for a hundred years or so, now. And the history of how they learned it is fascinating. In short, it goes back to the 1920s and involves the nephew of Sigmund Freud who pulled a PR stunt in New York’s Time Square to prove that emotional selling could be used to persuade women to start smoking en masse, for the first time.
A great PR stunt and sales of cigarettes skyrocketed.
Not so good for the health of women.
So, if ‘Why’ is not enough, how many questions do you need?
Well, again I don’t think there’s anything new to this question of how many questions we need to ask ourselves – to solve our biggest challenges (in business or in our personal lives)
You need six, not one.
And, in different contexts, they’re all essential questions too.
So, by all means, find your ‘WHY’ – whether you’re in business or trying to plan your personal life and your finances – but be sure to explore the other questions too.
They have, as Rudyard Kipling said, the power to teach us everything we need to know… if only we ask them to the right people… and take note of the answers.
I do believe, however, that any project needs to ‘start with why’ … and I’ve started sharing my thoughts on all the essential steps for successful projects here – if that’s of interest.
Thanks for dropping in
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