Start with Why

After writing the “What Matters” post last week, I’ve received great feedback from friends and strangers through emails and posts. Some of my favorite topics included:

  • How do we rank and choose different “whats” ?
  • Can this be an objective/quantitative process?
  • How can we improve as teachers and coaches of this thought process?
  • Exploring ALL stakeholders is great, but lumping them together is not great.
  • Fully vetting the archetype of each stakeholder is critical in the process.
  • There’s a distinct difference, especially in medical device product development, between verification of design inputs, versus validation of a user need.

Of all the feedback, the one that jumped off the screen was when asked if I’d read Start with Why by: Simon Sinek.  I hadn’t read the book, yet, but had previously watched and enjoyed his TED talk, How great leaders inspire action.

In the book, Simon uses the Apple, “1000 songs in your pocket”  slogan as an example, when he gets to his point and states, “Only later, once we decided we had to have an iPod, did the WHAT matter.


It goes back to the first bullet above…  How do we rank and choose different “whats” ?  How do we know they matter?

Start with Why.

WTM – You Are Here tool

I have this process for use in class with students called, “The What that Matters – You Are Here tool” that starts with “why” and then spirals you through all the questions, including when, where, who, and even how.  But yes, start with why.


If you click on the WTM – You Are Here tool and explore it like a solar system, you’ll see that it looks into the past, the present, and the future.  The spiral represents increasing quality of the exploration, or investigation.  But for this post, let’s just look up, at “Why.”  It gets to motivation and mission.

Let me steal again from Simon Sinek and use the “100 songs in your pocket” as an example.

In the 1980s, the Sony Walkman ultimate “why” or motivation may have been to take your music with you.  What you could do only in your home or car could now be done on the subway during your commute to the city.  By the early 2000s, that motivation went from one album to getting your entire music library in your pocket.

But does this matter any more?

If I’m playing in this space today…, why? What matters today? In the future?

Today, with the cloud, we can carry the entire planet’s music library in our pocket.  So getting more storage in a smaller space just doesn’t matter.

What matters, maybe, is to be able to listen to songs I’ve never heard before, but be likely to like them.  I mean, I just don’t have time to listen to the entire planet’s music library.

So, whether it is using automated intelligence to learn what I like in products such as Pandora…, or if it’s real human beings curating music, like on Radio Paradise, the motivation is about new (and old) music gems I’ll love.  That’s why…, and that’s what matters.

If you have other inspirational thoughts, reads, or other resources in the process of why we do what we do and developing innovative solutions, please comment.

Health & Happiness for All

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