The Golden Circle: a formula for inspiring action

In 2010 Simon Sinek delivered a TED Talk on How great leaders inspire action, the content of which has resonated with me ever since. While most of us think nothing of how great companies and individuals get to (and often stay) where they are, Simon produced a lecture that offered a little insight into how the best inspire action.

It’s all about the ‘why’

In his TED Talk, Simon Sinek explains that many companies don’t consider, or at least communicate, why they do what they do.

Being in business for money should not be the ‘why’ (that is simply a result). Instead, the ‘why’ should be a much deeper, guiding purpose that everyone can believe in.

The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is a simple framework that can be used to explain why some companies inspire action and why others don’t.

The Golden Circle by Simon Sinek

Whilst every company and person knows what they do (e.g. we make cars), only some know how they do it (the differentiating value proposition or USP) and very few know why they do what they do. The ‘why’ is fundamental belief and reason we exist and should be at the very heart of everything we do.

Simon argues that if you communicate from the outside-in then you are only competing on features, price and add-ons. But this is not inspiring and doesn’t give people a reason to believe in your product, service or cause.

Good leaders act and communicate from the inside-out. The process is reversed and they explain why they do what they do before talking about what they do and how they do it. For example, Apple do not start by saying they make great computers. Instead, the foundation of their communication revolves around their beliefs in thinking differently.

People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it

What’s fascinating about the Golden Circle is that the concepts are all grounded in the tenets of biology and specifically the brain.

The Neo-cortex (the newest part of the brain) corresponds with the ‘what’ level and is responsible for all of our analytical and rational thought and language.

The Limbic System is the part of our brains that corresponds with the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ and is responsible for all of our feelings, including trust and loyalty. It’s also responsible for all human behaviour and decision-making.

Communicating from the outside-in lets people understand and compute vast amounts of information but crucially doesn’t drive behaviour.

However, communicating from the inside-out talks directly to the part of the brain that controls behaviour. This is where ‘gut’ decisions come from.

And why is it important to attract those that believe in what you believe?

The Law of Diffusion of Innovation

The Law of Diffusion of Innovation is a theory used to explain how a new product is received in the market.

The Law of Diffusion of Innovation

If you want mass market acceptance or success related to an idea you cannot do so until you achieve 15-18% market penetration. The early majority will not try something until someone else has tried it first and this is this tipping point that’s required in order to ‘close the chasm’.

It is the early adopters who are most comfortable trusting their gut decisions and intuitions based on what they believe about the world (and not just what product is available). Early adopters are the type of people that queue up for an iPhone when they could buy it much easier the following week. They want to be first and what they do proves what they believe in.

Define your ‘why’

Regardless of who we are, what we do and who we work for we should all define what we believe in and why we do it. Great companies, individuals and leaders know their purpose and communicate from an ingrained belief in why they do what they do and I don’t see why t’s any different for us.

There are two types of people: leaders (those that hold a position of authority) and those that lead (those that inspire us).

I know which one I’d rather be.