TL:DR; This is a wonderful philosophy and everyone should be thinking about work and life through the lens. Simon has done a great job of explaining the philosophy in a Ted talk and I must say that after hearing him speak so eloquently the book seemed like a repetition and I had a minor struggle to get through it. I recommend the video over the book and use the book to see lots of examples
Recommendation: 5 stars. Buy it if you want to go in depth based on the Ted talk.
Most organisations (and people) think about life inside out. They start with the what they do, they tell you how they do it and rarely tell you why they do it. However, our brains are wired to understand the why before we get to the how’s and the what’s. Simon calls it the golden circle.
HS: Do spend 15 minutes on the Ted talk understanding the philosophy. This philosophy could end up driving the rest of your life. Plus, Simon is a brilliant speaker.
Given that Simon speaks so eloquently in the Ted talk, my notes here are my key highlights in the book.
Every instruction we give, every course of action we set, every result we desire, starts with the same thing: a decision. There are those who decide to manipulate the door to fit to achieve the desired result and there are those who start from somewhere very different. Though both courses of action may yield similar short-term results, it is what we can’t see that makes long-term success more predictable for only one.
So how can we ensure that all our decisions will yield the best results for reasons that are fully within our control? Logic dictates that more information and data are key. And that’s exactly what we do. We read books, attend conferences, listen to podcasts and ask friends and colleagues—all with the purpose of finding out more so we can figure out what to do or how to act. The problem is, we’ve all been in situations in which we have all the data and get lots of good advice but things still don’t go quite right.
Manipulation versus Inspiration
There’s barely a product or service on the market today that customers can’t buy from someone else for about the same price, about the same quality, about the same level of service and about the same features.
If you truly have a first-mover’s advantage, it’s probably lost in a matter of months.
If you offer something truly novel, someone else will soon come up with something similar and maybe even better.There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.
The Golden Circle
WHAT: Every single company and organization on the planet knows WHAT they do. This is true no matter how big or small, no matter what industry. Everyone is easily able to describe the products or services a company sells or the job function they have within that system. WHATs are easy to identify.
HOW: Some companies and people know HOW they do WHAT they do. Whether you call them a “differentiating value proposition,” “proprietary process” or “unique selling proposition,” HOWs are often given to explain how something is different or better. Not as obvious as WHATs, many think these are the differentiating or motivating factors in a decision. It would be false to assume that’s all that is required. There is one missing detail:
WHY: Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. When I say WHY, I don’t mean to make money—that’s a result. By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?
It’s worth repeating: people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.
When communicating from the inside out, however, the WHY is offered as the reason to buy and the WHATs serve as the tangible proof of that belief.
Knowing WHY is essential for lasting success and the ability to avoid being lumped in with others.
Clarity, discipline and consistency: Whys, Hows and Whats
HOWs are your values or principles that guide HOW to bring your cause to life.
But nouns are not actionable. They are things. You can’t build systems or develop incentives around those things. It’s nearly impossible to hold people accountable to nouns. “A little more innovation today if you would please, Bob.”
For values or guiding principles to be truly effective they have to be verbs.
A WHY is just a belief. That’s all it is. HOWs are the actions you take to realize that belief. And WHATs are the results of those actions—everything you say and do: your products, services, marketing, PR, culture and whom you hire. If people don’t buy WHAT you do but WHY you do it
It is at the WHAT level that authenticity happens. “Authenticity” is that word so often bandied about in the corporate and political worlds.
What authenticity means is that your Golden Circle is in balance. It means that everything you say and everything you do you actually believe.
Trust begins to emerge when we have a sense that another person or organisation is driven by things other than their own self-gain. With trust comes a sense of value—real value, not just value equated with money.
We’ve succeeded as a species because of our ability to form cultures. Cultures are groups of people who come together around a common set of values and beliefs. When we share values and beliefs with others, we form trust.
Now consider what a company is. A company is a culture. A group of people brought together around a common set of values and beliefs. It’s not products or services that bind a company together. It’s not size and might that make a company strong, it’s the culture—the strong sense of beliefs and values that everyone, from the CEO to the receptionist, all share. So the logic follows, the goal is not to hire people who simply have a skill set you need, the goal is to hire people who believe what you believe.
Hiring for culture
Almost every person on the planet is passionate, we are just not all passionate for the same things.
The goal is to hire those who are passionate for your WHY, your purpose, cause or belief, and who have the attitude that fits your culture.
Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them.
General Robinson is great leader because she understands that earning the trust of an organization doesn’t come from setting out to impress everyone, it comes from setting out to serve those who serve her.
How a tipping point tips
Diffusion of Innovations [note to self internalise this]
Early Adopters and Early Majority groups are similar, as Moore says, in that they rely heavily on their intuition. They trust their gut. Early adopters, like innovators but to a lesser degree, are willing to pay a premium or suffer some level of inconvenience to own a product or espouse an idea that feels right. The farther right you go on the curve, the more you will encounter the clients and customers who may need what you have, but don’t necessarily believe what you believe.
Summarising – one should thus not aim to convince the late majority or the laggards to buy your technology. They will jump to the next lower priced offering. [HS: Note – go through this section in the book, I cannot summarise without plagiarising the content completely]
The last sections in the book get into how to build communities and rally them and be authentic to your message. Short of it – always be consistent with your why.