I don’t know about you guys, but I was taught at a young age not to ask “Why” when my parents asked me to do something. Asking “Why” was seen as questioning their authority and not listening to instructions. But today, “Why” is a regular, encouraged part of my job every day.

At Prolific, “Why” helps us get to the bottom of user motivations so we can make better products for them. “Why” helps us establish goals for a meeting to make sure we’re all working toward a common goal. “Why” helps developers solve a problem more efficiently, now that they understand the full picture. We’re also asking “Why” as a company to understand our core values as we solidify our own brand.

In the book Start With Why, Simon Sinek points out that most companies make their product pitch backwards. First, they describe what they make and maybe why it’s different, then they explain how they do it. Rarely, do they explain why.

Sinek suggests that if Apple had pitched the iPod by telling you that it was an MP3 player with 8GB of storage (telling you about the What, instead of the Why), it wouldn’t be all that interesting. But Apple starts with Why. Apple’s Why, or their purpose, their core belief, is challenging the status quo. It’s what drives their process, and ultimately, it shapes the products they make. “1,000 songs in your pocket” doesn’t tell me what the product is, but I know why I want it.

Apple has disrupted the music industry, the wireless network industry, and probably the entire entertainment industry by starting with Why.

Dell makes computers. Apple challenges the status quo.
Selling someone on a better “what” might make one sale, but sharing a value or belief (why) with a customer creates brand loyalty.

I’m starting to think that when I have a little critter of my own one day (Lord help us), I’ll smile at his curiosity about how the world works, and encourage him to ask “Why” a little more.

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