Concept: The Golden Circle
Book: Start with Why. How Great leaders inspire everyone to take action.
Author: Simon Sinek
Category: Strategy & Management, Organizational Design, Personal Achievement, Entrepreneurship, Human Resources
Rating of the concept: 8,5/10

Concept: The Golden Circle

Entrepreneur Simon Sinek made an intriguing simple discovery that the impact of our communication is biologically determined. An idea that was spread a couple of years ago during one of the famous TED events. Ever since this TED talk, the idea of the Golden Circle is rapidly spreading the world and seems to be contagious. He found out that the impact of our communication depends on the order of our arguments. Most companies or people communicate in the following order: we tell what we do, how we do it and why we do it. Sinek discovered that information on the ‘what-level’ does not drive people’s behavior. ‘What-type’ of information is treated by the part of our brain called the Neocortex, responsible for rational and analytical thought and language. However, information on the ‘why-level’ talks directly to the Limbic part of the brain which controls decision-making, and our language part of the brain (neocortex) allows us to rationalize those decisions.

Here’s Sinek’s famous example from Apple. If Apple would communicate like everyone else –from the outside-in- you would get example 1. The second example illustrates how Apple actually communicates, starting with why?, from the inside-out.

Illustration of the Golden Circle


 Example 1 (Apple outside-in)

We make great computers. (What?)
They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly. (How?)
Wanna buy on?

 Example 2 (Apple inside-out)

Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. (Why?)
The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly. (How?)
And we happen to make great computers. (What?)
Wanna buy one?

Watch how Simon Sinek explains his discovery at the famous TED-talk.

BooksinBusiness comment on The Golden Circle.

The idea of the Golden Circle is simple, catchy and applicable for both people working in organizations and entrepreneurs. Just do the exercise and see how it works out for your sales pitch, value proposition or your personal choices.

Hearing Sinek’s speech directly triggered me to question to what extent I was communicating from the inside-out and more profoundly to what extent I even knew the answer to the why-question. I already talked about the impact of being able to answer the why-question in one of my previous blogs on Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. The idea of the Golden Circle reinforces this and explains how it can impact others.

A couple of months ago, I decided to put the idea of the Golden Circle into practice by rewriting the value proposition of our consultancy business. Just like other consultancy businesses we were claiming what we offered: years of expertise, smart consultants, methodologies and tools and a track record of customers. Our pitch wasn’t really explaining why we were doing what we were doing. We ‘felt’ we were different from other consultancies, however I realized we weren’t really communicating on the why-level. We started to brainstorm and truly found out why we were into business. We came up with reasons we never used before in a sales pitch: “we believe in the power of a team”, “our consultants like to have fun”, “we believe in a pragmatic approach”, “we care about the human impact of changes in an organization”, “we believe in positive energy” etc. These were all reasons that talked directly to the limbic brain but could we integrate them in a formal sales pitch? Not really sure if it would work out but we decided to try it.

To our surprise, it was remarkable how our potential customers reacted visibly positive to our ‘reason-why’. In the beginning it felt a bit strange talking about our why, but when customers themselves started to tell us afterwards why they had chosen us and this corresponded to our reason-why, we knew we were pointing out the difference we could make. It even made us change our website; on our homepage we described why, what and how we are working ( The value of the exercise was not only a more impactful sales pitch but it inspired the team. Our ‘reason-why’ came from ourselves and was genuine, we didn’t only find out why customers should choose us, we knew for ourselves why we wake up everyday.

Does the Golden Circle make sense to you?

BooksinBusiness take-away: Starting with why talks to the part of the brain that drives behavior.