How to start a movement and change the world like Simon Sinek
I had the opportunity to ask Simon Sinek that very question: How do I start a movement? Well, I used different words, but if you have a message you want to share with the world, this wording may resonate better.
Simon was being interviewed by professor Eric Koester at the Speaker Series within the Book Creators program at the Creator Institute. He was sharing insights about his writing process, how he is a ‘pressure writer’ who sometimes gets into a plane to get into a flow and write for three hours.
How sometimes he finds a problem, tries to solve it and then share it, in the form of a book, like the problem with trust he reflects on Leaders Eat Last. And how, some other times, he can be talking about some ideas, finding answers to several questions in a book, like in the Infinite Game. I was very fond of the not really competitive environment he described as worthy rivalry (where the opponent helps you be better), as it elicit some particular image I had to depict on my notes:
I was writing a book about creativity and play at the workplace. Well, I had handed in the first draft a few months earlier and was on my way to revision. But during the interview I was granted the opportunity to ask him a question. I felt very honored and a little anxious then. I had been following Simon’s work for years, from the Golden Circle in Start With Why, to his lessons from Leaders Eat Last.
What happened when he spoke made me change course on the book. Now I want to share with you the story I share in the introductory chapter of my book Join The Playful Revolution as he disclosed the secret to starting a movement:
What do you believe in?
Simon Sinek is a leadership expert and the best-selling author of Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last. His 2009 TEDx Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” with over fifty-five million views, introduces the concept of the Golden Circle. This refers to the way great leaders communicate in a very different way from everyone else, be that Apple or Martin Luther King.
The three elements of the Golden Circle are: why, how, and what. At the core of the approach is starting with why: the company’s purpose, cause, belief, and the reason for it to exist.
In a recent conversation with Simon, I asked him how to start a global playful movement.
“I’m trying to bring more playfulness to the workplace to spark more creativity and innovation, while bringing happiness as well. So, how do you start to create a global movement?” I asked.
Simon paused for a moment to assess the question and then responded.
“I’m a great believer to start with the place that you are good at. I was good at speaking my idea before I was writing about my idea.”
He suggested you pick your preferred format and go with it to hone your thinking: blog, video, podcast, consulting, speaking, etc. Then, he provided an example of how he developed the concept of the Golden Circle, described in detail his book Start with Why.
“I treated it like a scienceexperiment. I didn’t claim to be right. I didn’t claim that I had all the answers. When people would say, ‘will it work in this industry?’ My answer was, ‘I don’t know. I’ve never worked in that industry. Let’s try.’”
He continued, “I was very honest about that. I’m looking for the opportunities for the theory to fail, so I can improve the theory. What ended up happening was that the people who believed in my work gave me entry and tinkered with me. They let me tinker on their companies or their organizations.”
As Simon explained, his format of choice was speaking and he was talking about his ideas in order to refine them, but over time he noticed a shift.
He said, “I stopped talking about what I did and started talking about what I believed. Then, I was more and more being introduced to people who believe what I believe.”During the conversation, I was nodding at his every word. I could not be more in tune with him, but what he said next changed the focus of this book entirely.
“Stop telling people what you want to do and start telling people what you believe in. When you’re talking right now, you don’t really care about innovation. It’s a side effect, it’s a benefit that’s relevant to some people.”
Mmm, that came in as a knock, because I had just written a book about innovation, or so I thought. As soon as he started saying it, I smiled as if my mask had dropped. He could read right through me.
And he carried on.
“You’re in sales mode trying to throw spaghetti against the wall, hoping some of it will stick.”
He got me! I think I blushed a little and there was no place to hide.
He kept reasoning, “but talking about the thing that you believe… You believe in play. You believe that play is really important and we’ve forgotten the joy of play. It turns out that if you can embrace play, it brings all kinds of things: more happiness, it reduces stress, and drives innovation.”
Yes! He articulated it in a much nicer way. I had verbalized something different, but he put the focus on where my heart was, not my words.
“If I’m talking about play and then somebody smiles and goes, ‘you’re right.’ They’re more likely to invite you to figure something out with them. You have to practice talking about the thing you believe, and then saying yes to the people who believe what you believe, and saying no to people who don’t,” he added.
This is why I included this story, to share what I believe in the hope it may resonate with you.
Simon gave me one more example:
“In the early days, when I lived paycheck to paycheck, I didn’t have any money. I needed every client, it was really hard time. I remember word was starting to spread about a thing called “The Why,” and I remember somebody got my phone number. They heard about my work through somebody else I’d worked with, and they got to the phone: ‘I heard about you from [whoever]. Convince me why I should hire you?’ And I said, ‘Don’t.’ Because anybody who said ‘Convince me,’ I knew it was the wrong mindset. I needed somebody who said: ‘I heard what you do, I don’t think it’s perfect, but I think you’re onto something. I’d love to talk to you.’ I said yes to that, even if it paid less money. And so I was very diligent about choosing people to believe what I believe because they were the ones more likely to help spread the idea.”
I believe in Play.
I believe that Play is really important and we’ve forgotten the joy of Play.
I believe Play is essential to spark the creative genius of every human.
I believe Play is a great collaboration environment.
I believe we need creativity to solve global problems.
I also believe we need Play to remain healthy and happy.
I believe Play can bring joy back to the workplace.
What do you believe in?
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