It’s all about the “Why”
By Amir Gal-Or
Every day and every night, entrepreneurs share at least one common thought: how can I attract more support for my innovation? Support is defined as management teams, employees, investors, government, media, experts, analysts, and world opinion leaders.
We’ve seen it many times and have all heard the stories. Two different entrepreneurs with similar ideas can approach the market and yet achieve totally different results. One would experience great success, whereas the other would inevitably meet with failure. What makes the difference? Does this have to do with timing? Does it have to do with luck? I would actually argue that it doesn’t have to do with either. Success verses failure often times has to do with the leadership abilities and the charisma of the entrepreneur. Let’s, for the purpose of discussion, accept this statement as an accepted truth. So here we have the source of the success, now let’s look a little deeper to understand how leadership abilities and charisma are used to gain success.
From my own experience, I would say that much of it has to do with a clear understanding of the full "eco system" and the entrepreneur’s ability to communicate with those in this eco system in such a way that inspires, motivates and results in a proactive endorsement in one form or another. The eco system is comprised of the upstream and downstream of your business as well as relevant public opinion, such as those in the government, your costumers, and so on.
When we communicate with the "eco system" we need to walk on a delicate tightrope and strike a steady balance between selling unproven dreams along with conservative realistic goals. On the one hand, communicating dreams without foundation is risky. On the other hand, venturing to the other extreme and communicating ideas with a “dark cloud” attitude and regularly citing potential risks and all that could go wrong can also be counterproductive. So, how to strike this balance to achieve a committed and enthusiastic response from those in the ecosystem?
Author Simon Sinek suggests that we "Start with Why", which also happens to be the title of his book. It’s a good read and I would encourage all entrepreneurs to read it. His advice is thoughtful and I happen to agree with him. In his book and in his various lectures, Sinek explains that it’s not what you have, or how you do it that attracts attention and inspires proactive and demonstrative support, but WHY you do it. And, this brings us to the “kicker”: very few entrepreneurs are successful in explaining the “why”. Very few entrepreneurs begin explaining their value added with their story of “why”. Instead most start with the “how”s and the “what”s, and in turn they find that they’ve lost the ear, attention and interest of their potential customer or partner.
Let’s look at this a little closer. Why is not about the money or profit, which fall into the category of results. So then, what is it? The answer can only be found by asking yourself the following: WHY does your organization exist? WHY does it do the things it does? WHY do customers really buy from one company rather than another? WHY are people loyal to some leaders, but not others? Those who start with WHY are not perceived as manipulators, but as those who inspire. And those who successfully inspire garner a following of people willing to buy into their why, enough to purchase the product and benefit from how it works. The support is not for the product per se, but for the vision. They too want to be full participants.
Apple once again offers a brilliant example to illustrate this point. They designed an entire Eco system to support the company’s strategy. It included fans, talent, subcontractors, media and most interestingly, content owners and private developers. What enabled such cross industry support was the unprecedented combination of vision, determination and leadership. They managed this successfully due to an impressive delivery of communication explaining the reason why they were doing what they were doing. Apple sells amazing experiences for the user that will take them to a new place and a fresh sense of reality. How? Users are able to implement the latest in technology and the creative advancements developed at Apple. It just so happens that this experience is enabled by computers. As Sinek notes in one of his famous presentations, “after hearing this, of course you are now ready to buy one of their computers.” And you know what, he is right. Apple’s well-known branding, impressive market leadership position and soaring sales prove it.
In reality it's a personality issue. We are who we are and we can't pretend to be someone else and expect to succeed. We also need to accept the fact that building an innovative dream requires a sense of true belief in oneself and vision. A risk analysis mentality just gets in the way. True belief in one’s vision inspires support, as such confidence is attractively contagious and ignites a fire of creativity not only in the mind of the entrepreneur but also in those around them.
Looking a little closer to home, when I took Infinity to China, I didn't do it because I thought it was the best way to make money. It also wasn’t because of who I knew. It was based on a firm belief that connecting the innovative Israeli/ Jewish community with the growing culture and economy of China would create a better world balance as well as value to all.