Focus on the ‘Why’ Instead of the ‘What’

Whilst it might seem somewhat humorous, it’s actually kind of concerning for employees to lack an understanding of why they do what they do. Thankfully, it’s possible to obtain a better understanding of why we work by referring to the ‘Golden Circle’.

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When faced with the question of “what do you do?”, the answer is easy enough for many directors and CEOs. Indeed, the owner of a car dealership can simply say “I sell cars at a higher rate than I pay for them”.

However, employees can be totally stumped when asked the slightly more existential question of “why do you do what you do?”. A junior salesperson at the same hypothetical car dealership, for example, might find it tricky to provide a profound reason for selling used BMWs. In fact, they’d probably get exasperated and throw their arms up and say, “because I have bills to pay!”.

Whilst it might seem somewhat humorous, it’s actually kind of concerning for employees to lack an understanding of why they do what they do. This is because employees who have a distinct sense of what they’re working towards are typically the ones who end up becoming the best in their industry. They also have a habit of disrupting the sectors they work in.

Thankfully, it’s possible to obtain a better understanding of why we work by referring to the ‘Golden Circle’.

What is ‘The Golden Circle’?

Introduced by motivational speaker, Simon Sinek, ‘The Golden Circle’ is a business concept designed to make entrepreneurs and employees pull back the layers of a business to understand the core company values.

Sinek suggests that you start with what it is that your business does. Once you’ve done this, you should move on to analyse how you do it and how you stand apart from the competition. This process will help you to identify why you do what you do without simply thinking about profit.

It also helps you to go beyond basic product and service descriptions- it allows you to really understand how you’re providing solutions to the problems your customers encounter.

Examples of when this has worked:

  1. Unsurprisingly, the most popular example of a business using this strategy is Apple, a company who arguably epitomise the entire concept. Using the procedure above, Apple’s “what” are the electronic devices they’ve produced. Wonderful things like the iPhone, iPad, and iMac. The “how” in which they’ve incorporated to stand out from their competitors is the excitement they generate around each new product launch, and by always being one step ahead with their innovation. Finally, the “why” originally was to enable customers to use their computers at home or in the office.
  2. Another good example of a company using ‘The Golden Circle’ to provide better services to their customers is skip hire and waste management company, PSH Environmental. Again, starting with the “what”, as you may have already guessed, the company provide skips for hire and a waste management service to ensure disposal is recycled correctly. “How” they separate themselves from the competition is by providing a simple online booking system and a bespoke extracting process to achieve 99-100% landfill diversion. And, “why” do they do this? To eliminate the waste that ends up in landfill and to improve our environment.
  3. Lastly, Swedish product and service design company Humblebee, have experimented with this concept as part of their strategy. From the start, their “what” is creating digital products, tools, and services. The “how” they do it differently from their competitors is by using design and technology to solve problems and change businesses. Whilst the reason “why” they do this is because they build what is needed for businesses to succeed.

By following the concept of ‘The Golden Circle’ for your own business, you automatically enable the ability for employees to identify why you do what you do and work towards ensuring your values are reflected in what you do.

As Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “He who has a ‘why’ to live can bear almost any ‘how.’” This works just as well for a business. Being able to understand why you offer a solution, supplies you with the equipment and line of thinking needed to decide how you can provide this solution in a way that is better than your competitors and more efficient for the customer.

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