Sunday, September 11, 2011

Start With Why

Simon Sinek's concept about "Start With Why" provides a compelling perspective on culture and values. Sinek argues that all people are driven by a why, also known as a purpose or cause. He supports his theory with a biological argument that decision-making is centered in the limbic system at the core of the brain. The limbic brain is the most primal part of the brain and is responsible for emotion, behavior & long-term memory. If the limbic brain is responsible for decision making, then all decisions are emotional. Language and reason occur in the more developed part of the brain called the neocortex. We use reason to justify and rationalize our emotional decisions, but all decisions are based on emotion. Sinek argues that great companies start with a why, and this why incites emotion within the limbic brain from workers and customers alike.

My personal experience supports this perspective. We purchase products that resonate with our identity and values. We purchase products from companies that are aligned with our beliefs. Sinek states "People do not buy what you do, they buy why you do it." When building or leading a company, it is critical to understand that people want to be part of something greater than themselves. Daniel Pink argues this need for purpose as a key part of intrinsic motivation in his book Drive. If you hire people who believe what you believe in, the work takes on true meaning and purpose. An organization aligned in core beliefs has the passion to accomplish great things.

So, what is the why behind the company that I founded (ZTEC Instruments)?  What we do is easy to define: We assist our customers to test electronic devices. We play a supporting role in advancing electronic technology. Why we do it is more compelling: I founded ZTEC Instruments to make a difference. I was inspired to create an organization based upon contribution: contribution to our customers, to our industry, to our community, and above all else contribution to the professional development of a superior workforce. I believe that an innovative, talented and highly-motivated group of people can change the world. We are doing it through each new person that we hire. We can and will make a difference.

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