The Power of Why

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Everyone knows what they do. Some know how they do it. Very few know why they do it. Why as in not to get paid everyday but deeper then that. What is their cause? Why do they get out of bed every morning?

The quote above is from the author, TEDster and consultant Simon Sinek who stumbled on the power of "Why?" about four years ago when his startup was getting amazing traction but he did not have much passion for it. He noticed he did not have a good answer for 'Why' he was doing what he was doing.

Most of us tell others what our product does, how it does it and expect others to buy our product. This does not work. What Simon has learned is that every inspiring leader from Martin Luther King to companies like Apple talk, think and communicate the same way (completely opposite to everyone else). They start with 'Why'. I absolutely love this example below in which Simon points out how Apple focuses on 'Why'.

If Apple were like most companies here is how they'd communicate: What? We make great computers. How? They are beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly.

Here is how Apple actually communicates: Why? Everything we do we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. How? The way we challenge status quo is by making our products beautifully designed simple to use, and user friendly. What? We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?

So few of us address the question of 'Why' even though it's responsible for our customers taking action. We tell people what we do and how we do it and expect them to act. It doesn't work like that in real world. You've got to answer 'Why' first. I love to think about the 'Why' as we develop the story behind our own products and initiatives here at ZURB. Below is Simon's famous TED talk about the power Why. Enjoy.

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Design Just Ate My Software: How Designers Are Leading the Product Revolution
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The Purple State
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Design Leaders: Who Do You Want to Be?

It has 6 comments.

Daniel Will-Harris (ZURB) says

The problem with the simple "why" is that most people don't know why they want what they want. I don't think Apple is selling the "why" they're selling the FEELING, the luxurious stores with lots of personal attention and great service--the EXPERIENCE. But it's NOT an intellectual pitch, it's an emotional one.

One of the great misunderstandings of our age is to imagine that people act logically.

All you have to do is look at politics to see that people often work against their own self-interest, because they're not being logical.

The same thing happens in marketing, sales, even high-tech device that seem to be used logically.

You still have to make an emotional appeal--a "what's in it for ME" statement.

Apple's "what's in it for me," is "easy" "elegant" (you can't afford an Aston, but you can afford an iPhone). "Affordable luxury" is a huge part of Apple's appeal--and rightly so, because they give you a luxury experience.

Jeremy (ZURB) says

Daniel, did you watch Simon's video? I think you misunderstand his point and are saying almost the same thing. In Sinek's view, "why" is not intellectual at all. It's gut emotion stemming from a very old part of the human brain that predates even language.

Matthijs (ZURB) says

Indeed a great talk and interesting message from Sinek. It's high on my todo list to review all copy on my own websites in view of what he says.

I do wonder though whether or not and how this message of "why" fits in with every product out there. If your product line is the cheapest there is and your business model is being cheaper then everybody else, would it really be helpful to package your marketing message in a philosophical "why"? Or is a "Buy the cheapest tools with X" the answer to the why question?

In other words: should this why-rule be applied to everything? Or are there situations in which something else works better?

Dmitry (ZURB) says

@Matthijs Seems to me that this can be applied to everything. The why does not have to be philosophical. The answer to the question "why" is different at times but it's the first question you need to answer when communicating with others.

Liza (ZURB) says

Very inspiring video, I am totally in The Why. I've just listened to my thoughts in this 18 minutes speach.

Personal Whys are very strong leading points as well, it's not only about products or marketing, it's about motivating, inventing, being part of our madly revolutionizing world, not dogmatic but living society. The Why makes our life similar to live startup.

Dmitry (ZURB) says

@Liza - thanks for the note! Agreed - the Why question works well for anything you're doing. :) Great point.