Simon Sinek, TEDx talk, 2010
How do you explain when things don't go as we assume? Or better, how do you explain when others are able to achieve things that seem to defy all of the assumptions?
For example: Why is Apple so innovative? Year after year, after year, they're more innovative than all their competition. And yet, they're just a computer company. They're just like everyone else. They have the same access to the same talent, the same agencies, the same consultants, the same media.
Then why is it that they seem to have something different? Why is it that Martin Luther King led the Civil Rights Movement? He wasn't the only man who suffered in pre-civil rights America, and he certainly wasn't the only great orator of the day. Why him?
And why is it that the Wright brothers were able to figure out controlled, powered man flight when there were certainly other teams who were better qualified, better funded -- and they didn't achieve powered man flight, and the Wright brothers beat them to it. There's something else at play here.
About three and a half years ago, I made a discovery. And this discovery profoundly changed my view on how I thought the world worked, and it even profoundly changed the way in which I operate in it.
As it turns out, there's a pattern. As it turns out, all the great inspiring leaders and organizations in the world, whether it's Apple or Martin Luther King or the Wright brothers, they all think, act and communicate the exact same way.
And it's the complete opposite to everyone else. All I did was codify it, and it's probably the world's simplest idea. I call it the 'golden circle'.
Why? How? What? This little idea explains why some organizations and some leaders are able to inspire where others aren't. Let me define the terms really quickly. Every single person, every single organization on the planet knows what they do, 100 percent. Some know how they do it, whether you call it your differentiated value proposition or your proprietary process or your USP.
But very, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do. And by "why" I don't mean "to make a profit." That's a result. It's always a result. By "why," I mean: What's your purpose? What's your cause? What's your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?
As a result, the way we think, we act, the way we communicate is 'from the outside in,' it's obvious. We go from the clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations -- regardless of their size, regardless of their industry -- all think, act and communicate 'from the inside out.'
Let me give you an example. I use Apple because they're easy to understand and everybody gets it. If Apple were like everyone else, a marketing message from them might sound like this: "We make great computers. They're beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. Want to buy one?" "Meh."
That's how most of us communicate. That's how most marketing and sales are done, that's how we communicate interpersonally. We say what we do, we say how we're different or better and we expect some sort of a behavior, a purchase, a vote, something like that.
"Here's our new law firm: We have the best lawyers with the biggest clients, we always perform for our clients." "Here's our new car: It gets great gas mileage, it has leather seats. Buy our car." But it's uninspiring.
Here's how Apple actually communicates. "Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?"
Totally different, right? You're ready to buy a computer from me. I just reversed the order of the information. What it proves to us is that people don't buy what you do; people buy why you do it.
This explains why every single person in this room is perfectly comfortable buying a computer from Apple. But we're also perfectly comfortable buying an MP3 player from Apple, or a phone from Apple, or a DVR from Apple. As I said before, Apple's just a computer company. Nothing distinguishes them structurally from any of their competitors. Their competitors are equally qualified to make all of these products.
In fact, they tried. A few years ago, Gateway came out with flat-screen TVs. They're eminently qualified to make flat-screen TVs. They've been making flat-screen monitors for years. Nobody bought one. Dell came out with MP3 players and PDAs, and they make great quality products, and they can make perfectly well-designed products -- and nobody bought one.
In fact, talking about it now, we can't even imagine buying an MP3 player from Dell. Why would you buy one from a computer company? But we do it every day. People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.