Simon Sinek on What, Why, Trust, and Technology

I have been thinking a lot about leadership and motivation recently. One of the leading authorities in this field is Simon Sinek, he has given a number of very popular talks about How Great Leaders Inspire Action and Why Leaders Eat Last. Simon speaks very simply about leadership, in a way that many of us can very easily relate to. But it is another Simon Sinek TED Talk that i intend to cover today, the talk titled First Start with Why and then Trust presents some really thought provoking ideas about the way in which we conduct ourselves and interpret the world around us.

Below i cover very quickly the key themes that Simon Sinek speaks about in the TED Talk. In a funny kind of way, even though I came across the video while searching for information on leadership, the issues that Simon raises are particularly relevant to payments and technology! Hopefully as you read the below, this will become apparent….

Simon Sinek – What and Why:

WHAT they [organisations] do starts to grow.. the problem is WHY they do it starts to grow fuzzy – this is the single biggest challenge any organisation will face – Simon Sinek

At the heart of Simon Sinek’s analysis is the concept that when an organisation, idea or movement starts up it is founded by individual(s) who know exactly what they are doing and why they doing it. The what and the why are inextricably linked. Simon argues that you cannot have one without the other in these successful early start ups.

The problems Simon explains begin when the organisations start to grow and become successful, and the ideas and motivation (the why) upon which the original idea was formed starts to become unclear. The link between the “what are we doing” and “why are w doing it” is lost. Simon refers to this break between the what and the why as the “split”. What the company is doing will often continue to grow, but the why element becomes blurry and therein lay the problems.

Simon highlights the blurriness as :

  • Things no longer feel the same to the founding members
  • Organisations may start to pay more attention to what the competition is doing, rather than focusing on what they are doing
  • People from outside the organisation may be brought in to help the company understand their own objectives, principles and product lines

The above examples are really interesting, and i am sure will strike a chord with many of you….

Simon cites Apple (Steve Jobs), Starbucks (Howard Schultz) and Michael Dell (Dell) to explain how these leaders embodied the reason, the cause and the continued motivation for their employees to work passionately because they were united by a common set of values and beliefs. The shared sense of values and belief’s are crucial because they bring about trust in the organisation….

Simon Sinek – Trust:

The very survival of human race depends on the ability to surround ourselves with people who believe what we believe, when this happens something remarkable happens, trust emerges – Simon Sinek

Trust, according to Simon is:

  • A unique feeling, that is distinctly human 
  • Built upon a common set of values and beliefs
  • Critical for humans because when trusts exists, we dare to take risks, experiment and explore because we know that somebody is watching our back

Going back to the idea of what, why, and the “split”. Simon argues that as organisations go through the split and lose “touch of what are we doing and why are we doing it”. In such an environment distrust grows.

This was really interesting because it made me think, really think, about trust. I hope in our personal lives we can count on people in whom we trust. But can the same be said in the workplace? Hmmmm…

Simon Sinek – Technology

Technology is terrible for creating human connections and… trust cannot be formed over the internet – Simon Sinek

Simon proposes that while technology is great for exchanging and sharing information and an enabler of many things in a faster and more automated manner – at the same time technology is contributing to and speeding up the “split” process.

Some of the ideas that Simon raises are thought provoking:

  • Technology makes us blind to the people around us – we often cannot see or hear them, and as a result don’t recognise and understand the impact of decisions we may make
    • In fact, psychological tests show that when we cannot see or hear people with whom we may interact, we are more likely to treat them badly compared to when we can see or hear them
  • A large part of our communication today is done through email. As a result we lose the direct human interaction that helps to build trust and diminishes fulfillment because we may not always know the link between what are we doing and why are we doing it
  • Simon talks about how some banks advertise that customers can talk to a ‘real’ person, and that speaking to a person is often only available to limited people — and asks “since when is a person a luxury”?!?!
  • Technology has changed and redefined our vocabulary, desktop and folder for example can mean different things to different people
  • The problem according to Simon is that technology has not only co-opted our vocabulary, but our ideas about the world around us too giving the examples of:
    • A friend should not just be someone whose status you check on Facebook
    • A network should not be your LinkedIn network
    • A conversation shouldn’t happen on a blog – unless it is SEPA for Corporates, of course
    • A discussion cannot happen on Twitter –  although, if you would like to try, add me on Twitter
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Wow! There is some pretty heavy stuff there. It is thought provoking and really made me consider what i am doing and why i am doing it. The themes that Simon talks about span industries and human interactions and I believe we can all take something from these concepts and apply them to our own world – be they personal or profession.

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