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Book Review: Start with Why

Jennifer Janson is Managing Director and Owner of Six Degrees, a corporate reputation management company based in the UK. She is also the author of The Reputation Playbook.

When I was asked to write a review for this site, choosing the book was a no-brainer.  Simon Sinek’s Start with Why has a simple, but impactful message.  It boils down to this: people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. A beautifully simple, yet amazingly compelling message. And one that continues to influence me everyday in my own consulting practice.

The book contains leadership lessons, insights into best marketing practice and a glimpse into Sinek’s own struggles which I found quite compelling. I am always curious about what drives people to write a book like this, and the fact that Sinek alludes to his struggles to grow his consulting firm really resonated with me.

So what were the key takeaways?  In a nutshell, it was this:

  1. 1. Use the golden circle (why, how, what) and start with your business’ why.  Every company in the world can tell you what they do, most good ones can tell you how they do it, but only the truly great companies have identified and articulated why they do it.
  1. 2. Real leaders rely on gut instinct to identify a gap in the market. He alluded to Steve Jobs here – I must say, I found this made for uncomfortable reading, simply because there’s great risk involved in trusting you gut (rather than the data). But the greater the risk, the greater the reward.
  1. 3. You will be much more successful if you choose to hire only those people who genuinely buy into your why, and with customers who also share your beliefs. In turn, these employees and customers are most likely to become your most enthusiastic ambassadors.

As an avid reader of business books I find those that include science and facts most compelling. I enjoyed Sinek’s references to neuroscience to back up his assertions, and was particularly fascinated by the limbic system. He referred to another book called the Naked Brain that sounds like it could provide the reassurance I am looking for when it comes to being driven by gut instinct. So that one’s now on my list!

If you haven’t already gathered, I’m definitely a fan. For anyone looking for inspiration on how to give either their own business or the company they work for that extra edge, this is a must read.

Buy Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action

One Response

  • Oct 19, 2014

    Something not quite Wright here

    Overall, there are some very interesting lessons to take from this book. Although by the later chapters it does start to feel a little repetitive.
    My biggest issue is the author’s opening gambit in which he refers to the success of the Wright Brothers in being first to fly, winning out over Samuel Pierpont Langley, as due to them knowing what their ‘Why’ was. That simply isn’t true. Langley was certainly someone who knew the value of ‘Why’ – the need to improve the safety of the american railroad system had driven him to create the timezone system.

    As something of an historical aviation buff, I bow to no one in my admiration for what the Wright Brothers achieved. But in truth, Both them and Langley were working toward the same why -simply to be the first to fly. The author claims that the Wrights wanted to change the world. But as this excellent resource shows, they saw the quest to be first to fly as ‘sport’ http://www.wrightstories.com/airplane.html. Indeed, if changing the world was the motivation why did the Wrights refuse Langley’s request for a meeting? What might have been the wonderful possibilities of a collaboration between a successful, respected and well funded scientist and the intuitive genius of the Wrights? The thing that really mattered to the Wrights was not a why but a what – the desire to be the first to fly

    Andrew Bartlett Oct 19, 2014
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