The „Why“ is defined as a reason/ cause of our actions. An underlying motivation that drives us to do what we are do. It is based on our value system, our beliefs. Because it is so deeply human it makes us more attractive to others. If a company succeeds in putting its own „why“ into words, it will have a motivational advantage over its competitors.
„… people won’t truly buy into a product, service, movement, or idea until they understand the WHY behind it.“Simon Sinek „Start With Why“
what is the „why“ of a company?
Firstly, I believe a business cannot have a „why“ – but the leaders of the company have a why. The founder has it, because his „why“ is the reason for the company’s existence. And so the founder’s „why“ is reflected in the company. If you like: It becomes the „why“ of the organisation.
‚Reason‘ is the genetic building block of the organisation.
But now the first problems occur.
- maybe he/she just did it because the market options were nice (chances to earn money)
- because there was no other idea at hand
- the company only exists because founders wanted to escape the frustration of serving some boss
All these „whys“ don’t lead to any attractive message. And in fact: it is precisely not the „why“ why just THIS company was founded.
Some like to escape that dilemma by reverse engineering. They just look at what the company does and invent a nice, big sounding message – a message that feels like it makes sense but does not. Coco Cola just went down the path of bullshit bingo.
Why do I call that bullshit bingo? Simple answer:
- over-sweetened products (with sugar or with sugar substitutes) are proven harmful and that is the opposite of refreshment. If you like to find out more read this (link to foodwatch).
- Just because it kicks (sugar + caffeine) it does not mean it is „refreshing“. That applies to most of their products sold. The very first product they had was a product that was meant to „kick“ and it was invented by a pharmacist. To be sold in tiny doses.
- „make a difference“ is best evidence of bullshit bingo. Sounds nice – tells nothing.
- It’s like Marlboro claiming, „Our purpose is to relax the world. Make a difference.“ Would any of us believe they are a company with a purpose? They are a company with a business – like coce – but not with a purpose.
Let’s not continue on Coce (environmental issues, plastic pollution, and so on). Let’s continue with true purpose.
why a reason may not be a Purpose.
We have just explored many reasons why people found a company. And still we have no solution. Here’s the deal: if you’re looking for a reason you have to look further and putting a second axis in the field.
You will find the companies purpose if you explore INTRINSIC motivations. Any extrinsic motivation does not have „you“ as its starting point. It has „others“ (consumers, bosses, markets, etc.) as a starting point. All these extrinsic aspects may be valid – but still there ist something „you“ that caused that specific company.
- your value system
- the way you see human beings and what is valuable in them
- things that put you into „flow“ while working
- the essence of you as your best friend / your partner would describe it
- look at what you feel you are responsible – or want to be responsible for
Going down this path you will end up with something that has „purpose“ – even if you would not call it that way. But it will resonate in others. (If you seek for inspiration, just check out patagonia. Their VALUE SYSTEM in many ways is the best ever value system a company like them could possibly have.)
Big companies struggle with WHY because they obey the market – and not any one person. Since „why“ is an intrinsically human reason, they just don’t have one. Even if they put the word „purpose“ on it. When people matter, when people lead the business, their intrinsic motivation becomes the „why“ of a business.
If you found a why don’t let external reasons destroy it.
I hope I could help you with providing my own „key“ to finding the right message (they second axis). If so, I would be happy hearing from you.