Start with Why
One of Simon Sinek’s first books had this title. It caught my attention and I have to admit he has some great stuff to share. In a nutshell he explains that people don’t buy “what” you do or make they buy “why” you do what you do or make. He goes on to explain that the “what” piece of us is formed in the neocortex part of our brain that is also where the language and logic centers are found. Thus we can talk about “what” all day long.
What Drives Us
The challenge as he states it is that because we can all relate at this level there is little that compels us around the “what.” That what compels us is around the “why” we do what we do or why others do what they do. This is a much harder challenge to communicate because the “why” comes from the limbic region of the brain which is not connected to the language center but rather is responsible for what drives us, what motivates us, what feeds our passion and our interest. When you are a Mother Theresa the “why” may seem obvious to most observers but when you make computers for example the “why” becomes harder to define.
IBM and Apple both made computers but what drew people to Apple? Two statements by Steve Jobs made back in the 1980’s’ sums up his “why” pretty well:
"To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind."
"Man is the creator of change in this world. As such he should be above systems and structures, and not subordinate to them."
We Connect at a Gut Level
If you remember the Orwellian style ads that Apple ran back then you would know that they reflected this “why” and that is what connected people to Apple. They were disrupters and were keen to have their machines reflect our humanity not have humanity reflect the machines. Our interaction with our machines whether you are a windows person or an Apple person reflect the contribution of Steve and Apple to our understanding of the Human/Machine Interface. After all icons are a uniquely human way to communicate!
The H Revolution
So I could tell you my what, and if you have been following my blogs for a while you have pretty much already figured it out. So let me share my “why” with you. As a an amateur history buff I have been intrigued by the progression of our modern era, beginning with the Industrial Revolution. What intrigued me was the movement away from work that was “naturally human” to work that in fact diminished our humanity. We moved from a society where work gave us meaning, purpose and significance (even if it was for sheer survival to start with) to simply being a cog in the machinery.
During the Industrial Revolution we raced to keep up with the machines and in this current Information Revolution we race to keep up with the machines. Don’t think this is so? Let me ask you the question; do you know what “going off-grid” means? I rest my case.
We continue to work in a society where people are viewed as capital and it is normal to see budgets met by slashing staff when times get tough. This to me is heartbreaking. My “why” is this; I believe that the next golden age in the progression of humankind is what I call the H revolution or simply stated – putting our humanity back into our work.
It is about giving back to those who work with us, all of us, that sense of purpose, and meaning and significance in what we do. Where we are more than just cogs or decimal points in a profit/loss report but something far greater than the sum of its parts. Imagine working in a place that not only valued it’s employees but proved it by encouraging them tackle the dilemma of a “down turn” by letting them come up with solutions that did not sacrifice the staff but tapped into that amazing innovation that exists within human communities faced with a challenge.
If this sounds “fluffy” believe me it is not. It is hard work and it strains all the things that connects us as a community but in the end it will produce meaning and purpose and it will be worth it.
The why makes a difference. Consider this “why” statement by a company that makes computers: “Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.” Hard to believe it’s the same company. Why matters!