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Why I’m Not Sure “Why” Is The Best Place To Start

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Simon Sinek’s Start with Why is a book whose central premise is that intense focus on your individual purpose, cause, or goal — your “why” — can actualize hopes or ideas in real life.
If you’re looking for an inspirational book, “Start with Why” is as good as any other. But it is not a book about the science of management.

It lacks the one, crucial element essential to text for critical thinkers: proof. Proof is found in the analysis of large blocks of data — which have been objectively vetted — and where evidence contained within can be replicated under varying circumstances.

Start with Why doesn’t contain a whiff of anything that could be confused with evidence to back up its central claim.

Instead, a series of anecdotes are selectively chosen by the author to illustrate his thesis: People who follow their “why” succeed and those who lose sight of it fail. The author asks us to take this on faith based on a theme established in a handful of stories he selects to back up his argument. There is no examination of other contributing factors affecting the subjects of those anecdotes, and other stories that may have refuted his thesis are ignored.

There is no analysis of objective data. There is no independent verification. Conflicting outlooks are not included. Data are only chosen to support a presupposed hypothesis.

It is so because the author says it is so. Fine for religion, not for the science of management — especially when dealing with precision manufacturing.

Some companies succeed, others fail. Others just sort of tread water. Some companies are corrupt and exploitative. Others are sabotaged by bad bookkeeping or adherence to irrelevant technology. Some companies had very clear purpose and strong drive, but just happened to be Blockbuster Video in the era of Netflix.

In the book there was no critical examination of the effectiveness of visualizing goals in those situations, maybe because those scenarios don’t neatly fit the thesis of the book.

What about the “whys” of the countless business owners and shopkeepers in Europe during the 1940s who fell victim to marauding armies led by mass murderers with their own twisted goals and motivations? How can good “whys” lose out to evil “whys”? If some driving forces are good and others are evil, are some effective and others useless?

Linus’ “why” never waivered, yet the Great Pumpkin never materialized for him in “Peanuts”.

It is not bad to have a goal, a vision, a motivating force. The book is positive and encouraging. Having purpose can inspire others to improve, and inspiring others to improve is the essence of strong management. Most books that handle this topic, such as Rick Warren’s “A Purpose Driven Life,” deal with faith.

Faith and professional business management, however, are two very different subjects.

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