In America, employees apply the final fixes on the doors with a rubber mallet, while in Japan the doors simply fit perfectly.

There are those who decide to manipulate to get to the result, and there are those who start with the result in mind and let everything else naturally fall into place.

Carrots and Sticks

When you need a behavior to happen once only, them manipulative sticks are best way to go.

But when you want more than a single transaction, when you want a loyal, lasting relationships, then you are better served with inspiring carrots.

Whats & Price Wars

When you’re defined by what you do, your product becomes a commodity.

It becomes very hard to differentiate and build loyalty. Most companies then resort to sales, promotions, influencing tricks, etc.

What, How and Why – The Golden Circle

What – what you physically produce or offer as a service

How – culture and systems in which you produce your whats

Why – purpose behind it all, the reason why you get out of bed

Why starts from the inside

When we start with why we go from inside out of the circle. Apple is just a company like another. There’s no real difference between its competitors.

However, Apple communicates from the Why, Apple’s Why is to challenge the status quo and empower the individual. And their what and how stays consistent in all they say and do, which is why we perceive Apple as authentic.

This is not opinion. This is Biology

We want to be around people who are like us and share our beliefs. When companies start with why, with what they believe, they’ll tap into our innate drive to include those products as symbols of our values and beliefs.

Why talks to the Limbic Brain

When you start with why, you’re talking directly to the part of the brain controlling decisions “gut” decisions. People make decisions that just “feel right”, cannot explain why they did it and will rationalize it with something else.

So, they won’t tell you they chose Apple because they see themselves as someone who likes to challenge the status quo and Apple serves him to prove to the world who he is and what he believes in. Instead they’ll tell you because of the screen resolution, or because no viruses…

What talks to the rational

When you start with what, you’re talking directly to the rational part of the brain.

Rational decisions indeed take longer, and your whats will be pitched against a bunch of other whats. It’s in these conditions manipulative strategies leveraging desires or fears work.

Why companies focus on What

Because that’s what their customers ask for. They ask for great quality, low price, 24h service. However, the part of the brain controlling decision-making is different from the part of the brain reporting back why that decision happened.

If I had asked people what they wanted they would have said a faster horse.”

Henry Ford

Clarity, Discipline and Consistency

Why is just a belief. It’s not readily touchable or visible. The clarity of your why is then more clearly shown through your hows and even more visibly through your whats.

When everything proves your why, that’s authenticity.

Whats can cause commodity

Looking at competitors to add features and benefits, only entrenches the What culture.

In stark contrast, companies with a clear sense of Why tend to ignore their competitors, because they simply are different and don’t need to convince anyone about it.

Whys leave room for flexibility

Take Apple again, you can buy a Mac, an Mp3 player or a cellphone.

It’s not the case for Dell. Dell defined itself by what they do. They do computers, so people don’t feel comfortable buying anything else from them. They tried expanding int different verticals, but quickly retreated to focus on their core business.

What vs Why Marketing Message

Creative was more qualified than Apple to produce a digital music product, and they went there first. They marketed it though as a “5GB mp3 player”. Apple marketed the iPod as “1,000 songs in your pocket”

Why and Hiring

Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success”

You can rest assured that people applying for such a JD would be ready for anything. Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them. They hire inspired and motivated people.

How a Tipping Point Tips

People waiting for 6 hours to get iPhone were all early adopters, on the left of the curve.

People on the far right instead are never content and never loyal. Know people on the right so you won’t waste time and money on them. These guys will do business with you if you meet their requirements (and switch when you don’t).

Focus on the left of the curve, they’ll encourage the rest to follow.

Charisma Vs Energy, Gates Vs Ballmer

Energy is easy to recognize, measure and even copy. Steve Ballmer was energetic.

People with a clear why are charismatic people. Charisma is difficult to define, measure and copy. Bill Gates is charismatic.

When Ballmer speaks people are energized and may be excited, but that states tend to dissipate quickly. Wen Gates speaks people listen. They remember those lessons for months or years.

Why Vs How Leaders

Behind most Why-type leaders there’s a How-type leader who builds the infrastructure which brings why to life.

Why-types are visionaries with overactive imaginations. They see most people can’t see. (e.g. Steve Jobs)

How-types are more practical and more realist. They see most people can see and are better at building them (e.g. Steve Wozniak)

Billion-dollar companies are usually born when a good Why-type meets a good How-type (example, Walt Disney and Roy)

Vision Vs Mission Statement

Vision is the founder’s intent, why the company was founded. Mission is a description of how the company will bring vision to life. When both are clear, it helps both Why-type and How-type to have a clear role in the partnership.

Symbols and Stories express Why

Since Why sits deeply in the limbic brain, it can be difficult to clearly articulate it. This is why we use stories and symbols to create a more tangible expression of our why. The clearer they can be, the better the communication to the outside world. (e.g. Harley Davidson embodies the value and lifestyle of the people wearing it).

When Why Goes Fuzzy

Volkswagen for example literally means ‘car of the people’ and its image has always been that of reliable cars for everyone, for the average citizens. Most famous Volkswagen model was a hippy symbol of freedom and simple life. So, when they introduced a super expensive model, that flew against their own why and sold nothing.

Walmart had a more serious case. It started with the idea of helping people and communities and providing products with low prices. However, after the death of Sam Walton, Walmart focused only on low prices forgetting about helping people and the communities they served. So, it became a cutthroat business towards its suppliers, employees and the communities it joined.

Why is nothing without How

For passion to thrive, we need structures and Hows.

“Why starts with you, not with market research.”

Why gives you The New Competition

When you compete with others, nobody wants to help you, but when you compete with yourself, people take a liking on you. People with a strong Why aren’t’ interested in competition, they’re in a race of their own.


Kyaw Wai Yan Tun

Hi, I'm Wai Yan. I love designing visuals and writing insightful articles online. I see it as my way of making the world a more beautiful and insightful place.