Some chestnuts are so good they’re worth reheating and serving. Simon Sinek’s iconic TEDx talk from 2009 is one such delight. Once and for all, he demonstrated to us why it’s imperative to find – and communicate – the ‘Why’, not merely the ‘What’ or ‘How’. We’ve put the link to his wonderful talk at the end of this post, for your listening pleasure.
To put this into L’Institut’s vernacular, all ‘Great Ideas’ fundamentally address this ‘Why’ question, as in ‘Why should I choose your brand/product/idea?’ or ‘Why should I care?’ Without addressing the ‘Why’, one does not have a Great Idea that will turn your business or organization on its axis. Sony long since stopped telling us why we should care about their products, despite the legions of brilliant engineers under their employ. They issued a series of What statements that eventually lost our interest for good, as Apple and Samsung came on a tidal wave of Why.
How you get to the Why is as important as the Why itself.
So now we know why it’s good to find your Why. But how do you find your Why? Short answer: Come work with L’Institut, as we have ways of making your intuition talk. But that’s no answer for those reading this post.
Instead, let us offer a few basic principles, rather than a process per se.
- Your Why must address an unmet need in the marketplace.
These days, it’s not good enough to merely offer a slightly better version of what’s already available. One needs to identify a need (psychological and functional) that no one else is addressing or even fully aware of, and fulfill it.
- Your Why must be an authentic passion and competency in your organization.
Not unlike the Venn in Jim Collins’ Good to Great (passion, talent, economic driver), your Why must come from an authentic, core place in your organization, both functionally and spiritually. If you don’t mean it, you won’t be great at it. If you’re not great at it, you shouldn’t do it.
- You should involve your organization in finding the Why.
We cannot stress this enough. The Why cannot simply come from the CEO or founder in a moment of inspiration in the shower at their Aspen chalet. A powerful Why, in today’s world, should bubble up through the organization and be the very voice of its culture.
Several years ago, we worked closely with a Fortune 100 company in the U.S. to facilitate the creation of their next 10-year strategic vision. While the CEO attended every session, he actually kept quiet and let his team of 54 people (senior management plus various seconds in command) collaborate to explore many different concepts until they arrived, quite unanimously, at the proposed vision. This was then workshopped further and refined by working with middle management.
What was remarkable was that the CEO had independently arrived at a nearly identical vision statement prior to our work, but deliberately kept it out of view and only shared it with his team after they had finished their work with us. To everyone’s astonishment, they had landed in almost precisely the same place. He had trusted his team to come to their own conclusions and take full ownership of them. So, in the end, rather than forcing ‘alignment’ to his visio, he had the pleasure of watching his people use their imaginations and exercise their own thought leadership.
Moral of the story: How you get to the Why is as important as the Why itself.
Here is the link to Mr. Sinek’s talk: