Simon Sinek, in one of his talks speaks about the Golden Circle framework.

The Golden Circle is all about decoding the success of many iconic brands or personalities. What makes some brands and leaders so successful?

It hinges around the questions, “Why”, “How” and “What”. It tries to explain the reason why masses buy products from a brand like Apple, or an icon of the likes of Martin Luther King.

Sinek says that it is because they give people a reason to believe in them. At the root of all great purposes lies the “Why” of things. What is the reason to believe in a brand or a company. What does the company stand for?

The three elements of this Golden circle are discussed in detail below:

WHAT: Every company and organization on the planet knows WHAT they do. Everyone is easily able to narrate the products or services a company sells or the job function they have within the system. The “WHAT” for a company is easy to identify.

HOW: Few companies and people know HOW they do WHAT they do. Whether you call them a differentiating value proposition or unique selling proposition, HOWSs are often given to explain how something is different or better.

WHY: Very few people or Companies can clearly fluent “WHY they do WHAT they do”. This is not about making money- that’s the result. WHY it’s all about your purpose, cause or belief. WHY does your company exist? WHY should anyone care? If a company wants to be successful, it should rely on the core question in the golden circle, the WHY. It should explain clearly and honestly WHY their products and services are the best a customer can get.

Since the WHAT is the easiest thing for us to determine, and WHY the toughest, people usually start from the easiest and move to the “fuzziest”, i.e., from the outer circle to the inner circle, as Sinek puts it. But the inspired leaders are always clear about the WHY and they start from there and move towards the outer circle.

To illustrate, he gives us an example of Apple.

If Apple were unclear about who they were, they would go about their sales pitch like any other computer company and say,

  • WHAT – “We make great computers.”
  • HOW – “They are beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly, Wanna buy one?”

This is how most companies do it. But this is how Apple did it.

  • WHY – “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently
  • HOW – “The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.”
  • WHAT – “We just happen to make great computers, wanna buy one?”

Sinek goes on to explain that people buy the “WHY” and not the “WHAT” from Apple. And that’s the reason why Apple not only sells computers, but also sells MP3 players, phones and tablets. That is because of the trust people put in the “WHY” of the company.

Its a great lesson for people who are starting off and trying to define themselves.

For further understanding of the rationale, here’s a link to the original talk given by Simon Sinek: