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Where Are You Coming From?

(October 2012) posted on Wed Oct 17, 2012

This discussion evaluates the power of why in your business.


By Mark A. Coudray

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One of my favorite places to go for new ideas and perspectives is TED.com. TED talks are addictive, 18-minute-long presentations by the world’s foremost thought leaders in all areas. There are over 1000 TED talks available, all free to watch. Of all the talks, my favorite is by Simon Sinek on “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” I have watched this particular presentation at least 30 times, and each time I watch it, I find more.

The underlying concept is so inspiring. Sinek talks about the way businesses see themselves and talk about themselves. They tell the world about what they do and how they do it. We’re conditioned to it. Think about it. When you meet someone for the first time, after you are introduced, the first thing you’re asked is, “What do you do?”

He goes on to explain that the what and how are logical concepts, processed by the neocortex—the modern, logical part of our brain. It only makes up 10% of our active brain processing. This is the specification-driven processor we are all so familiar with. Unfortunately, specifications are easily substituted with less-expensive alternatives that still satisfy the requirements. This is the trap we fall into when positioning ourselves with a what and how model.

The other 90% of mental activity takes place in the limbic mind—the lizard brain. This is the ancient part of our brain that processes and controls everything about how our bodies and subconscious work. It cannot communicate directly with us, but modern neuroscience has determined it records and stores everything in our lives from the minute we are born. This is the part of the brain that leads to feelings and intuition.

Intuition is that gut feeling that something just doesn’t feel right about a deal. You can’t explain it, but the more experienced you become, the more you trust your intuition. That’s because your intuition is sending you a message, via a feeling, that is based on countless experiences, sensations, and cues. These are largely subconscious, and we are most often unaware of them happening.

So what does all this have to do with you? The limbic brain controls the why part of our existence. Why is about the passion of what we do. Sinek elaborates: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”


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