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“He who has a why can endure any how.” Frederik Nietzsche

In his TEDx talk Simon Sinek expounded on a simple, yet profound theory on why some products, people and organizations fail while others succeed. It has to do with a simple theory based in biology about why we make decisions. We have a primitive brain, or limbic system, the one part of the brain that holds our emotions. Then there is our powerful, thinking brain, the Neocortex, which has language and makes rational decisions based upon facts, data and information. While we may believe we are using our powerful thinking brain to make decisions. we are actually making them based on our emotions, on the “Why. “Most organizations and products focus on the How and What, but miss the Why, the inner emotional part of why we do what we do. How do you explain the success of Harley Davidson? Japanese manufacturers have been making more technically advanced, reliable and less expensive motorcycles for decades. According to our rational brain, Harley Davidson should have gone out of business a long time ago. But Harley Davidson isn’t selling motorcycles, they are selling the experience, freedom, the open road, the lifestyle. They are saying to their customers, if that is the experience you are looking for, come and join us.

Here are 5 compelling reasons that organizations need to figure out their WHY

Grounds them and provides guidance and a beacon for giving direction to everything they do.

Discovering the WHY grounds organizations and gives them a base from which they can make decisions, grow and evolve. People who have no sense of who they are, or what they stand for are rudderless, drifting whichever way the wind blows, falling for anything and everything that appeals to their whimsy at any given time. This also applies to organizations. Without a sense of purpose, a reason for their being they will have nothing to point to when it comes to making decisions that effect their future. The WHY provides moral direction when difficult decisions come up as to where the organization should be going next. Organizations who know their purpose have something that buffers them as it provides a constant in these times of constantly accelerating technological, environment and societal changes.

Attracts loyal employees with the same belief

Organizations that know their purpose, proclaim it and put it out there attract people to their organization who share their beliefs. This has always been true to some degree, but in the past people were more willing to put up with working for organizations whose values conflicted with their own. It was seen as necessary to earn a living, provide for the family. Often employees didn’t see that they had any choice. In today’s workplace this is changing. Millennials are no longer willing to work for just a paycheque but are looking for a reason to work, wanting to contribute to something worthwhile, to make a difference. They actively seek out organization whose purpose matches their own. In a world of rapid workplace turnover, employees who identify with the values of an organization are less likely to leave. After becoming CEO, Jeff Carcara of Barteca Restaurant became obsessed with the coming up with a WHY for the organization. They came up with, We want everyone who comes in to leave better than they were. In an industry that typically sees turnover as high as 100% annually they were able to retain 60 to 70% of their staff.

Attracts loyal customers sharing similar beliefs

As with attracting people that share values to work for the organization it also attracts customers who want to buy their products and services. Witness the many organizations that are making every effort to promote themselves as green and environmentally friendly. They are very aware that this will attract a certain type of customer who will only purchase from an organization that shares their values.

Creates stronger teams

People who share similar values and beliefs will get along better, making it easier to work towards a common goal. If those people are working in a company that shares those commonly help values, a strong dynamic force is created. This creates a workplace that requires less supervision or external forces to keep them on track as they are more self-motivated. Seeing the overall success of the organization as being aligned to their own goals creates an environment that in which people will be more internally motivated to do their best, increasing discretionary effort.

Provides Clarity resulting in clearer focused communication and marketing

Having a purpose provides a central focus for all communication and marketing for a company. Everything that goes out internally and externally can be evaluated against how well it stacks up against the purpose of the organization. This provides valuable direction and ensures that a consistent message about who they are all about and what they believe in.

A version of this post originally published here.