By Gina Lapidus on February 5, 2016
“And it’s those who start with ‘why’ that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others to inspire them” (Sinek, 2013)
Simon Sinek’s book, “Start with Why”, provides very simple messages, which are also powerful and inspirational. The messages impact people’s success, happiness, life satisfaction as well as organisational impact. In his TED Talk about this book, he questions why some people or organisations are more innovative than others, why some companies thrive and why others lag behind. He provides context to these questions by using his “Golden Circle”. He believes that if we speak from the inside out, people are more drawn to our ideas, particularly if there is a shared purpose or belief. The inside starts with the simple question: “Why?”
Figure: Sinek’s Golden Circle
Simon argues that we, whether as an organisation as a whole or as an individual within an organisation, appear to be quite self-aware with respect to what we do and how we do it. Yet, being in touch with why has far more value. He provides an example of how Apple communicates from the inside out to become more successful than their competitors: “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently (why). The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly (how). We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one? (what)” People are more likely to buy into the reason why a company makes its products.
His theory is grounded in Biology and the human brain. The neocortex is the outer structure of the brain. It is associated with hearing, sight, language, rational thought and is associated with what – as it is used to gain understanding and in critical evaluation. Underneath this neocortex, there is the limbic system. This system is associated with learning, memory, feeling and decisions based on these functions, but has no association with language.
Using the brain as an example, speaking from the outside (neocortex) in (limbic system), people understand the information we provide to them because we talk about facts and tangible ideas, but there is no real impact. When we speak from the inside (limbic system) out (neocortex), our arguments may have more impact because we are influencing deeper cognitive processes.
People can often answer what they do and how they do it, but battle to understand the why behind their actions. Assessments could be used to enhance self-awareness in the workplace on both an intrapersonal and interpersonal level. Self-awareness promotes understanding between individuals and builds relationships, reduces conflict and increases job satisfaction. Cognition, personality, values and motivations can be assessed to find this why.
From a cognitive perspective, to see the why in situations or your own actions, you sometimes need to judge and evaluate vague and unclear information. Well-developed metacognitive awareness (thinking about own thinking) and judgement enables a person to think on a deeper level, reason why they do something and consequently derive the purpose in their actions. It also allows a person to interpret the why of other people and organisations, which leads to interpersonal effectiveness
From a behavioural and personality perspective, considering the role of internal drivers may provide further valuable insight to an individual. The Values Orientation (VO) reports on belief systems that the person considers important (accepts) and avoids (rejects). This is closely associated with why we act and what motivates us. The assessment also yields insight into how a person perceives the world or their worldview. Within an organisation, becoming aware of each other’s values and why people approach situations differently may serve as a positive tool to enhance self-insight as well as a deeper understanding of your relationships and interactions with others.
Motivation also plays a significant role in understanding why you do what you do. The Motivational Profile (MP), for example, provides insight into how you come to play certain roles in your life and becoming aware of these roles could make a meaningful difference. The MP rests on the premise that whatever roles you play you get something back in return, for example, acceptance or love, and that is why we are motivated to behave the way we do. Knowing why we do what we do coupled with an awareness of how we project ourselves to others may enhance a deeper interpersonal understanding between individuals at work.
Why are you still reading? Contact Cognadev to find out more about these assessments that can act as tools towards finding your core why.