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Do you know “why”? Improve your business communication.




“People don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it”. If you don’t know this little mantra then you’ve missed out on one of the most popular TED Talks of all time, Simon Sineks 'Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action'.


We’ve been working with a few of our clients recently to help refine their messaging, increasing the focus on the “why”. As a precursor to this discussion we always ask them to watch this talk, as it is a great introduction to the principle of the Golden Circle.


Sinek’s brain-child, The Golden Circle explains why some leaders and organisations inspire action and others don’t. Why some businesses achieve great success and others don’t. His golden circle looks at three aspects of communication – what we do (results), how we do it (actions) and why we do it (beliefs).



Simon Sinek's Golden Circle


Most businesses communicate from the outside in, focusing heavily on explaining exactly what they/their product does, then moving on to how they do it. If the audience is lucky, they might get to hear about some of the benefits of the product or service, but rarely will they really hear about the why – the bit that makes it really interesting to them, that tells them why they should part with their hard-earned cash for it. It’s easy right? Everyone knows their own products and services, so can easily articulate them. However, this practical, functional information doesn’t tap into our hearts and minds, it doesn’t inspire loyalty or action. It also makes you blend into the rest of the market place and doesn’t differentiate you from your competition.


So, as Sinek points out, the key to success is to flip this and “Start with the why”. Why does the company exist? Why was it started? Why does it matter? Why should your customers care about you? Understand and start to communicate this first and you tap into people’s beliefs. It’s human nature to want to be around people or organisations who share our beliefs.


Sinek highlights that communicating on the “what level” appeals to our neocortex, the part of our brain that processes our rational and analytical thoughts. However, it is the limbic brain, the middle two sections of our brain, which are responsible for our feelings (our gut instinct) and decision making. By communicating the “why” we tap into the desire to join with people or companies who share our beliefs.


Without entering a political discussion, current global affairs gives us an all too clear example of this… ‘why’ messaging is arguably the reason Trump won the election and why ‘vote leave’ won the Brexit referendum. With “Make America Great Again” and “Take Back Control” as key messaging, they both clearly and effectively communicated the “why”, igniting the desire in us to share in a common belief. Obviously other factors come into play and it’s not as simplistic (especially in modern day politics) as this, but it does illustrate the power of “why”.

Interestingly, “why” isn’t a new theory, in fact this TED talk was first published in 2009 and has become the third most watched talk on TED.com, with over 40 million views and subtitled in 47 languages! Yet the fact is that most businesses still start with the what and ignore the why.


Have a think or an audit of how your business communicates – do you communicate the why?


If the answer is no and you’d like some help exploring this idea and evolving your own messaging, then give us a shout!