Book review: "Start with Why" by Simon Sinek and Apple's Patent Wars

Thursday, August 02, 2012
File under: The Library

I recently read “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek which was recommended to me by Paul Bünau. He told me about the book over lunch, and it sounded quite interesting. The basic message is that most people are concerned with what they want to do, or how to accomplish something, but few ask why they should do something.

The book actually takes this a bit further and talks a lot about companies and leadership. Simon Sinek says that companies like Apple manage to have a loyal customer base because they are very clear about why they exist and why they do what they do, and people identify with that very strongly. In the case of Apple, he states that their ‘why’ is to challenge the status quo and to believe in doing things differently. If you’re clear about why you’re doing what you’re doing, it naturally follows how you go about that and also what you do in the end. On the other hand, if companies are unclear about their company vision or their ‘why’, they can only compete on the “what”, which often ends in competing over price, mail-in rebates, and other stuff which only works in the short time.

Other examples are Harley Davidson, Southwest Airlines, Martin Luther King, but also negative examples like Walmart, which used to have a strong sense of why which got deluted when the founder died.

The book is a good read. The basic ideas are explained quite quickly, but the book does a good job of illustrating these ideas in different ways. It felt a bit like a TV show, where once you got acquainted with the main characters, you just go on watching because you want to know how everything turns out.

Of course, the book is simplifies stuff a lot. After all, it’s no sociological theory, it’s about inspiring people to rethink what’s important to them, which is nice.

Taking the example of Apple, I also think it sheds an interesting light on the current patent wars between Apple and Samsung. If Apple’s ‘why’ is really all about innovation and disrupting the status quo, why are they so concerned about other companies eventually copying their products. I think it’s just natural and to be expected. If innovation is really their strong point and they have a loyal fanbase which will buy their products no matter what, as a way that of identifying with Apple’s ‘why’, why are they so concerned that other people are copying them.

Of course, (and this is also discussed in the book), you can’t just survive on the die-hard fans, but you need to products become mainstream. But I guess Apple is still making enough money. It could always be more, but well… .

So these patent wars don’t quite align with the way Apple is portrayed in the book. And I don’t think its the new management. Steve Jobs was infuriated about Android based smartphones, and was willing to “go thermonuclear war on this”. For the future, it will be interesting to see, whether Apple can stay true to its ‘why’ or just become yet another computer company.

In any case, if you’re going to buy the ebook from and want to me a favor, you can go through this affiliate link and I’ll get a few cents ;)

Posted by Mikio L. Braun at 2012-08-02 17:23:00 +0200

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