Simon Sinek is an unshakable optimist. He believes in a bright future and our ability to build it together. Described as “a visionary thinker with a rare intellect,” Simon teaches leaders and organizations how to inspire people. With a bold goal to help build a world in which the vast majority of people go home everyday feeling fulfilled by their work, Simon is leading a movement to inspire people to do the things that inspire them. Forbes takes a look at Simon’s “Golden Circle” theory and how it applies to the popularity of Tesla:
Tesla is a five-letter dirty word in some parts of the auto industry. They’re often dismissed as a short-term disrupter and there are plenty of people waiting for them to fail. But Tesla believers – and Donald Trump’s campaign – adhere to Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle” theory that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Today’s lines at Tesla stores (measuring in the thousands according to the Tesla Club Forum) and Donald Trump’s often inexplicable success thus far provide further proof of Sinek’s theory.
According to Sinek, consumers gravitate towards leaders that have a very clearreason for being and convey “why” they do what they do, how they put this belief into action, and what they do to demonstrate that belief. Companies that work from the inside out (from Why to How to What) are more successful and innovative than companies that work from outside in (from What to How to Why). He cites in his 2009 Ted Talk, but a more recent example is also Tesla and arguably Trump.
Sinek explains that this nearly visceral response to brands like Apple are biological, and different parts of our brain respond to different parts of the Golden Circle. The two parts of our limbic brain are responsible for emotions (trust, loyalty), and decision making, but it’s non-verbal, which is why we say things like “I don’t know, it just feels right.” We can’t verbalize the decision, we just know it’s the right decision, appealing to the “why” of the circle. The neocortex is responsible for analytics and language, the “what” and “how” portion of the Circle.
It’s not entirely rational to purchase a Tesla – new technology from a new automotive company, a pretty risky $80,000+ (usually more like +$100,000) investment, and yet really smart, really successful people are standing in line to buy them. Why? Sure, they’re gorgeous vehicles. Sure, they’re the very latest technology. Sure, they drive beautifully (apparently….I’ve never been in one nor driven one). But people believe in Elon Musk’s vision, and so they believe inhow they’re executing it and what they are doing. Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”
Donald Trump’s campaign, perhaps unwittingly, also applies the Golden Circle. Why is he running? To Make America Great Again. What is he going to do about it? Get jobs back. How? By becoming president. As Sinek says, Martin Luther King Junior didn’t have a plan, he had a dream. Donald Trump has made it this far on his “Make America Great Again” dream. For his believers, the plan can come later.
Elon Musk once said, “Selling an electric sports car creates an opportunity to fundamentally change the way America drives.” This is his “why.” The “what” is technologically advanced innovation and the “how” is through beautiful, sexy electric vehicles at a variety of price points.
Unlike Trump, Tesla doesn’t need to do business with everyone. Tesla doesn’t need to blanket the automotive industry with a car for everyone. They just want to make cars for people who get it. For people who believe what they believe. And now, with the Model 3 at a much lower price point, Elon Musk’s vision is achievable for a wider group of believers. It’s not rational to many, but it’s rational to them. And that’s what matters in the end.