From the very beginning of your business, you can use the Golden Circle to define and communicate the purpose of your business. But you can also use the Golden Circle in the day-to-day life of your company, whether it is for business management, recruitment or marketing. Your WHY can motivate and inspire your target group and customers as well as your team members.
The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is also called the Why-How-What model. You have to answer three questions from the inside out and your answers have to be interdependent. Indeed, from your belief or purpose (Why) should flow your unique approach (How) and from it (ideally) your factual performance (What).
Sinek designed this model to explain the meteoric rise of companies like Apple or Coca Cola. Simon Sinek first presented his model at a TEDx conference in 2010.
Sinek presents the Golden Circle as the result of his analysis of successful companies. He concludes that what makes these companies special is that they behave differently in their management and communication than many other companies.
The why is a central point in people’s buying decision. In a world where we are always looking for meaning and justification, the why provides the appropriate answer.
The Golden Circle is therefore an attempt to explain why some companies are more successful than others under identical conditions. Sinek explains this through inverted communication and leadership, focusing on the why rather than the what.
Reasons for the success of the golden circle
The reasons for using the Golden Circle are many and varied. Intuitively, we suspect that knowing why we do things in the first place is important. Let’s look in more detail at the reasons for using the golden circle in business:
The golden circle is easy to use
In advertising agencies, there is a simple rule: “If your idea doesn’t fit on a post it, it’s too complicated”. The principle of simplicity has also taken hold in the world of startups. A new idea must be explained in a very short time, for example the time of an elevator ride, otherwise the problem would not be well understood or the solution would be too complicated. And this is how countless start-ups work on their Elevator Pitch to convince investors and first customers.
Simplicity is the key. And the Golden Circle is very understandable and easy to apply. It requires almost no explanation and you get to work immediately. The Why, How, What is used in advertising as well as to briefly present a new product or business idea.
If one searches for “Golden Circle” on Google, one quickly gets results in a wide variety of fields and applications:
- Change management and leadership,
- Marketing and brand positioning,
- Product and project management,
Structuring knowledge according to the Why, How, What principle doesn’t just make you better understood. It helps you think. And it helps you have better conversations with others.
If you want to get others interested in a topic and you prepare yourself with the Golden Circle, you will realize very early on if you have already found good answers to all the relevant questions. Do you know why something is important? Automatically, you begin to be interested in the perspective of the person you are talking to. You start to think in a customer-centric way. This is also the reason why the Golden Circle is often considered an Agile working method: It promotes an empathetic mindset.
Common basis for discussion
It makes it easier to discuss a topic with others. During the exchange, one has a mental orientation for open or unclear questions: Why, How, What.
In this way, the Golden Circle also helps to unblock critical situations.
The three levels of the Golden Circle model
What is important in applying the Golden Circle is the order in which you approach the three levels. Start with the WHY and move through the HOW to get to the WHAT. From your higher sense of WHY comes the HOW to do WHAT. But all levels are equally important. A pure vision, a superior sense is not enough to create a successful business. On the contrary, without special skills and a unique offering, the WHY is just an empty shell. The HOW and WHAT make your vision credible and authentic.
WHY – WHY are you doing something? What is your purpose?
The starting point and center of the Golden Circle is the “why” question. The WHY describes what is called your purpose, which is your higher meaning, your motivation or reason for your actions. This is the heart of the Golden Circle: Why did you start your business? What do you want to accomplish or change?
Many forget this why and only see their reason for being in the business of running the store and generating sales and profits.
HOW do you do it? How do you do it and what makes you different from others?
The second step is how you go about achieving your WHY. Ask yourself what methods or strategies you use. How do you get to your goal? Metaphorically, the HOW represents the path to your WHY, or meaning. In the business context, the HOW includes your entire business model, in which you describe in detail how your business works. This level also includes your USP (unique selling point), which sets you apart from the competition and excites your customers.
WHAT – What do you do? What is the result?
The WHAT is the result of the first two levels and is probably the easiest to describe. It is about concrete actions, products or services. Ask yourself what you offer (what products or services). What does your company do? This level is much more tangible, which is perhaps why many companies try to differentiate themselves from the competition through WHAT. However, differentiation through WHY is much more promising, as it also speaks to customers on an emotional level.
The Golden Circle in communication
In online marketing, many companies communicate in the wrong direction. Too often, social media, newsletters and the like focus on the concrete product (what).
Ideally, you should at least reach the how layer and communicate the specifics of how you work. This highlights the USPs and, at a minimum, brings out a stronger utility and individuality of the company.
Few companies achieve the why. Yet it is the core and therefore the strongest selling point.
How to use Simon Sinek’s Why, How, What model?
The “why” is the Golden Circle’s customer-centric meaning question – in other words, the “purpose”. It provides a shift in perspective and empathy toward the group of people it addresses. Why should always be a rationale from the perspective of the people you want to address and reach. It can be a vision or a justification. The question is “why is this important to my target”.
The “how” is the detail question of the Golden Circle. It provides tangible, in-depth knowledge in the other person. How should always describe in more detail information about an approach, principles, rules or even features, USPs of a solution.
The result, the “what” is the result question of the Golden Circle. It allows us to understand as clearly as possible what we expect.
What should always convey a category, a very simplified definition or target state of a solution or product. The question is, “What is the outcome?”
The History of the Golden Circle by Simon Sinek
The Golden Circle was invented by Simon Sinek, author and management consultant. In 2009, he gave a presentation at the world-famous TED conference on innovation. During his 18 minutes on the theme “How great leaders inspire action”, Sinek talked about Apple’s communication or Martin Luther King.
The Golden Circle is a thinking model based on the biological principles of decision making and can be applied in many areas related to your business. It explains why some companies are more successful and inspiring than others. Indeed, they are not defined by what they are, but by the meaning and motivation behind their actions and products. This meaning is at the heart of the model and is described as your WHY.
The Golden Circle is one of the most valuable tools of understanding that one can use on a daily basis. It is useful to use it regularly. It helps to improve your own communication skills, reduce errors and improve the quality of collaboration.