Updated: Jan 14, 2020
Simon Sinek: The Good Life Review | Marketing 10/10 | Usefulness 5/10
I love Simon Sinek. In fact, truth be known, I envy him!
My feelings are not fuelled by what he says. My feelings come from the way he persuades you and me to accept and promote his ideas. Simply put, I consider Simon to be a brilliant orator and marketer. There, I've said it.
However, you and I have a fantastic opportunity to build on his message, because Simon Sinek is not getting everything right.
Just ask, why?
Simple, but is it original?
Simon's mantra is "start with why", it is even the name of his website. Ask why. A concept so simple it is beautiful. But it is not new thinking. For example, Socratic questioning, which advocates for the asking of "why", has been around for centuries and has been used to great effect by industry; Toyota, for example, developed the "5 Why's Method"?
The beauty of Simon Sinek's message is in its simplicity,
but is it too simple?
Why would you not want to ask why? After all, it can be such a powerful tool for conversation and problem-solving!
Pause with me a minute and consider the simple, complicated, complex and chaotic Cynefin domains within which you and I act every day. If you are not familiar with Cynefin, you can read my Cynefin domain explainer in the video below.
Does asking "why" work in all of the Cynefin domains, for example in the complex domain, or by asking why do you run the risk of missing awareness of the bigger picture by following a single linear thread?
You need to be more careful when you're tackling complex or critical problems. 5 Whys can lead you to pursue a single track, or a small number of tracks, of enquiry when there could be multiple causes.
www.mindtools.com | cautionary comments on Toyota's 5 Whys approach
If you think to ask why might encourage you to stay on a linear track, then is asking why just a bit too simplistic? Because if it is, you are decreasing your level of awareness and increase the potential of unintended consequences emerging from your actions.
Asking why is powerful, but is it emotional?
Building on the opportunity to explore beyond "why", how about if I ask: why do you follow a given routine that you have created at work?
Does such a question have the potential to produce an emotional response based on what you feel over what you think, because if it does, then you have to acknowledge that for all the beauty of its simplicity it can also be deadly in its ability to create defensiveness and kill conversations?
Simon Sinek and the Golden Circle
In fairness, Simon himself sees the opportunity to do more than ask why, as you can see in his "Golden Circle" concept: e.g. what is happening, how is it happening and why is it happening?
What exists outside the Golden Circle?
What do you think, does Simon go far enough with his Golden Circle?
I ask because if you want to develop a deep and meaningful understanding of the opportunity, I believe you will need a greater awareness of the context within which the opportunity sits. If you agree, then you will need more than why, how and what.
It is not Golden, but is an Awareness Circle more powerful when it comes to creating awareness!
This is why I love Simon Sinek! He has a Golden Circle, which plays on the marketing power of 3s. I can only come up with an Awareness Circle that plays on a little known marketing failure strategy called, the power of 6s!
Like Simon, I have not come up with anything new here. I have just applied the science of knowledge and learning, and what you are looking at are six primary types of knowledge (e.g. see Holsapple & Joshi (2004), Sanchez (2004) and Mingers (2008).
What could you do with greater awareness?
Looking at Simon's work, I do wonder whether he has missed a significant opportunity to build greater awareness of the power of why, how, what. Why? Because if he has missed an opportunity to develop your understanding of what why is about and how it impacts your analysis and decision-making, then you have a chance to create something that is potentially more powerful.
What could happen if you looked at what, when, where and who as a means to define or concretise or define the opportunity at hand?
What then if you moved to understand the opportunity by exploring how?
Finally, what if you then moved to better understand stakeholders, their values, beliefs, knowledge, skills and experiences, by exploring why?
Admittedly, it is not as simple as "Why" or Simon's Golden Circle, but such thinking is far more complete and, therefore, powerful.