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 comes down to the biology of decision-making. Our limbic system is one part of the brain that holds our emotions. The neocortex, on the other hand, is our powerful, thinking mind, which makes the decisions based upon information. When we make decisions, we probably like to think that we’re basing them on facts and data. But we’re making them based on our emotions, on the “why.”
How else can you explain the success of Harley-Davidson? Japanese manufacturers have been making more technically advanced, reliable, and less expensive motorcycles for decades. By the judgment of the 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, then come and join us.
If you want to build a long-lasting business, this is precisely the kind of mentality that you need to adopt. Here are five reasons why an organization needs to be clear on its purpose:
It gives you a beacon for everything
Having a “why” gives you a base from which you 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 whims at any given time.
This principle also applies to organizations. If they don’t have a sense of purpose, they’ll find it difficult to make future decisions. Having a “why” provides a moral direction to guide them in difficult times. In a volatile environment of rapid technological, environmental, and societal changes, it’s a much-needed constant.
You can attract loyal employees who share the organization’s beliefs
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. They saw it as a necessary way to earn a living and provide for the family. Often employees didn’t see that they had any choice.
Today’s workplace is different. Employees are no longer willing to work for just a paycheck but are looking for a reason to work, contribute to something worthwhile, and make a difference. They actively seek out organizations whose purposes matches their own. In a world of rapid workplace turnover, employees who identify with the values of an organization are less likely to leave.
You can attract loyal customers who share similar beliefs
In addition to attracting workers, you’ll also attract loyal customers. 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 particular type of customer who will only purchase from an organization that shares their values.
You’ll be in a better place to build a stronger team
People who share similar values and beliefs will get along better, and this makes it easier to work toward a common goal. When they share the company’s mission, they’re more likely to be self-motivated, so they require less supervision or external forces to keep them on track. When their own goals align with the overall success of the organization, they’re more internally motivated to do their best.
It makes communication and marketing easier
Having a purpose provides a central focus for all communication and marketing for a company. You can evaluate everything that goes out internally and externally against how well it stacks up to the organization’s purpose. As a result, you’ll be more likely to deliver a consistent message about who you are as an organization, and what you believe in.
Organizational success requires more than facts and numbers. A good product is critical, but so is a sense of mission. When you are sure of your “why,” you might find that you’ll spend less time questioning what you need to do, and more time taking actions that contribute toward your organization’s success.