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Start with Why

How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

By Simon Sinek
  • Read in 13 minutes
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  • Contains 8 key ideas
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Start with Why by Simon Sinek

Start With Why (2011) tackles a fundamental question: What makes some organizations and people more innovative, influential, and profitable than others? Based on best-selling author Simon Sinek’s hugely influential lecture of the same name, the third most-watched TED talk of all time, these blinks unpack the answer to that conundrum. As Sinek’s examples from the business world, politics, and technology show, it’s all about asking “Why?” rather than “What?”

Key idea 1 of 8

Success is the fruit of design, not of short-term patches.

There’s a famous story about a group of American automobile manufacturers who visited Japan to inspect the country’s car plants. The assembly lines they saw were pretty much the same as those in their own factories, but there was one notable difference. In the United States, a line worker used a rubber mallet to tap the edges of car doors to ensure they fit. In Japan, this job didn’t seem to exist. 

When the American executives asked how these plants managed without this position, their Japanese guide smiled sheepishly and explained that “we make sure it fits when we design it.” 

The key message here is: Success is the fruit of design, not of short-term patches. 

Unlike their American counterparts, Japanese car makers weren’t looking at a problem and attempting to figure out a makeshift solution – they were engineering the outcome they wanted from the get-go. 

This has a couple of obvious benefits. First off, a well-designed door is likely to both last longer and be more structurally sound in an accident. Secondly, if you’ve designed the door correctly, you don’t need to buy mallets or hire workers to wield them. That eliminates a lot of waste and saves a lot of money, time, and hassle. 

But that’s not how things work in many organizations. What the American carmakers were doing with their mallets is a metaphor for the way in which many companies around the world are led. Faced with a result that doesn’t match up with their original plan, leaders often turn to perfectly effective short-term patches to achieve their goals. 

This might keep things chugging along, but it’s not the best approach. The most successful organizations don’t need mallets – they build products and companies according to a blueprint. Put differently, they make things fit by design, not by default. 

Every instruction leaders give, every course of action they put in motion, and every target they set begins with the same thing – a decision. Some decide to hammer doors into place; others start somewhere very different. 

In these blinks, we’ll be exploring the second path. As we’ll see, this is what guarantees long-term success. It all begins with a simple but powerful question: Why?

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