I finally got around to reading Simon Sinek’s book: Start With Why (highly recommended, if you are interested in understanding why certain individuals and organizations are very successful while others are not despite doing and selling similar things).
I’d like to talk about how his findings can apply to Digital Analytics, especially when you are looking for an opportunity in the industry (this can be applied to any industry, I guess).
The Golden Circle
The backbone of the book is Sinek’s framework, called The Golden Circle (TGC). TGC is a tool to help individuals and organizations identify their purpose. It has 3 components: What, How and Why. Let me explain this very briefly.
The Components of the Golden Circle:
Every company in the world know what they do (Apple manufactures computers to small electronics, such as iPods and iPads)
Most organizations know how they do what they do (Apple manufactures computers and phones that are easy-to-use and beautifully designed).
Very few organizations can articulate why they do what they do (Apple challenges the Status Quo – see below for details).
Sinek argues that those who start from the outside to tell their story, i.e., from What, will have a difficult time being persuasive. Going back to the example above, imagine if Apple’s marketing message was: “We make computers that are beautifully designed and easy to use. Would you like one,”. Would they be as successful?
Consumers and investors are completely at ease with Apple offering so many different products in so many categories. It’s not WHAT Apple does that distinguishes them. It is WHY they do it. Their products give life to their cause and everything they do works to demonstrate their WHY, which is, according to Sinek, “Challenging the Status Quo.” Think about the iPad, iPhone, iTunes, Apple TV… whatever they do, they challenge the status quo. And their story starts with the Why, not the What.
Ask Yourself Why
So, how could this help you in an interview situation? When you are looking for a new opportunity or even if you are starting your career right after graduation, when you are interviewing or networking… how do you sell yourself? Do you only talk about the tools you use at work, do you talk about the super slick dashboards you’ve designed, do you give an example of the insights you’ve generated that helped your company save some marketing dollars? Or do you tell the story of why you are doing what you’re doing?
When I was a pizza delivery driver as a new immigrant and an undergrad student in Canada, which was quite a while ago, I designed a simple database to record the tips I received, delivery time and date for every single delivery (mind you, there were no smartphones, iPads, etc. at the time). Simple, right?
When I calculated my hourly earnings by hour and day of week, I found out that Wednesdays 2-5pm was usually very slow and Friday rush hour wasn’t as good (I know the latter is counterintuitive but it was because there were too many drivers on Fridays!). Guess when I would book my Doctor’s appointment or take a couple of hours to study for my finals? Yes, Wednesdays between 2 and 5pm… Guess when I would hang out with my buddies on the weekends? Yes, Friday evenings …
Then I got into running, and started collecting data about my running. Mileage, time, date, weather, some details about my diet, alcohol consumption on the day before, work schedule, etc. The one variable that had the highest correlation with the distance was weather. The warmer it was the more I ran (no, I cannot remember the R square). So, based on my past runs and following week’s weather forecast, I knew I would have to push myself a bit further during the nicer days in order to reach my monthly goal, which was 100km/month. The good old days!
I graduated, went to grad school and got interested in the work I currently do; Digital Analytics. I didn’t have a great deal of experience in Digital Marketing and Analytics at the time, but when I had interviews, I would tell these stories. What do they have in common? They scream that I use data to make my life better (and more lucrative). Whatever I do, I like to make sure that there is some “data-driven” reasoning behind it.
During the interviews, I never explicitly articulated that “I believe in data driven decision making in order to make my life better”. Regardless of what I do, I feel that I need to make the best decisions I can under the circumstances – both at work and at home – and I use data to do achieve this. From pizza delivery to running to analyzing marketing campaigns to understanding consumer behaviour, telling the “why” story became my ticket to the Digital Analytics world, despite my lack of experience at the time (cheers to Paul, who gave me my first break!).
Digital Analytics is the How to my Why. As long as I can make data-driven decisions to better something, I am totally fine with doing something else in the future. My What, and my How may change but my Why probably won’t.
Understand the Why
I know we are all obsessed with tools and sexy dashboards and infographics and we are proud of them. But if that’s what you all talk about, it will be harder to convince someone to adopt your point of view, of course unless you are looking for a junior role. Or even if you convince them, your job will be that … building dashboards and using shiny tools, probably without really understanding the Why.
If you are in a position where you need to market yourself, try this out. Tell a story that explains why you do what you do (or want to do). And if you understand this concept, you can understand your interviewer’s depth as well! Did she ask you about tools and dashboards or did she try to sell you the organization’s/department’s Why? The worst thing you can do for yourself is to work for a What or How person… why?
Well, because you need to Start with Why!
Here is a link to Sinek’s TED talk and here is the link to his book: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Highly recommended. His Why is to inspire people.