The Why Behind Healthcare Innovation - Mayo Center for Innovation

The Importance Of ‘Why’: Innovation and Leadership

Behind every great idea, there is a motive. Why does the idea exist? What is the purpose? The cause? The belief? According to Simon Sinek, this element of the developmental process is defined as the ‘why’ and describes the emotional drive behind an idea (Sinek, n.d.). The ‘why’ is the heart of an idea and is complimented by two other elements, the ‘how’ and the ‘what’. Together, these three elements make up what Sinek refers to as ‘the golden circle’ and provide insight to the implementation process of an idea.

Although the process of implementing an idea always consists of all three aspects of the golden circle, the difference between project outcomes, depends upon how the process is carried out. Sinek suggests that there are two ways to promote an idea, starting from the outside of the golden circle with ‘what’ and proceeding to ‘why’, or starting with ‘why’ and continuing on to ‘how’ before finally explaining what the idea is. Interestingly, those who promote their idea by starting with ‘why’ are generally more successful, according to Sinek. The reason these two methods of promotion result in different outcomes lies within our human biology.

Promotion of an idea by first communicating the ‘why’ and ‘how’ initiates the use of the limbic system, a part of the brain that is responsible for driving behavior. This allows for a person to relate their emotions to the idea before actually understanding how it can be put into action; thus, making it feel as if the idea came to them naturally. Furthermore, if a person experiences an emotional tie to an idea, they may feel in control and more confident in their decision to support the idea. In order to ensure this relationship between an idea and its prospective population, it is advantageous for the innovator to align plans for marketing around the ‘why’ and sell their idea based on personal motive.

In order to keep sight of the ‘why’ as we continue to move forward with innovative ideas, it is important to make sure that we, ourselves, understand why we are passionate about the idea in the first place. After all, Simon Sinek proposes that people are not interested in what you do, but why you do it (Sinek, n.d.). Furthermore, he states that when a leader is driven by a purpose, by a cause, by a belief, people are more apt to be inspired and support the idea (Sinek, n.d.). By demonstrating the ability to answer difficult questions in reference to the golden circle such as, ‘what is the reasoning behind the idea?’ or ‘how will this improve the lives of the consumers?’ we will strengthen the understanding of personal motive and inspire others not by advertising a product, but a relatable purpose. Sinek, S. (n.d.). How great leaders inspire action. Retrieved November 8, 2015.