Currently reading: Start With Why by Simon Sinek

I was recommended this book by someone whose opinion I hold in high regard, but so far I’m not enjoying this book. Not necessarily for the material - I think I can appreciate the points being made about having a defined ‘why’ behind a company and explanations of the various manipulations a company can leverage rather than actually being better than the competition, but rather the extreme “American-ness” of the author. Especially surprising since the author has a more diverse background than simply ‘American’.

It took 48 pages before a single non-American company was mentioned (Ferarri), and even then it was in the context of

“if you have a family of six a two-seater Ferarri is not better. However, if you’re looking for a great way to meet women, a Honda minivan is probably not better”.

I’m long out of the dating scene, but that seems… like a terrible comparison. Is that part of the purchasing decision? I suppose maybe it is for some, but as a reliable consumer group?

Multiple references to Apple Macs and iTunes being brilliant innovations “because people connected with the why of the company”. iTunes was a terrible product that was forced onto users in order to use the iPod (a distinct improvement over the removable media competition). My understanding is that it gained significant market share over CDs because it was easier (and potentially cheaper - if you wanted a single song). For myself and many others (the reason I believe it was actually innovative) it was easier than pirating music. A dollar for a song compared to a handful of dollars for a CD or the hassle of downloading and uploading a file - it solved a problem. I don’t attribute that to Apple’s “why” - another company that offered that might just as well have had the same success.

Chapter 4 seems to end with the explanation that “Harley Davidson riders want Harleys” and “Mac people want something starting with an i” and that there’s a cult aspect to this based on loyalty above actual product superiority but I don’t believe this is grounded in any “why” of those companies. They’ve each done well at convincing buyers to be part of their collective, and they’ve each done well at having some features their buyers do appreciate (loud engines or smooth interfaces) but they’re both viewed as objectively worse products by people who can be considered unbiased. The example of “U2 being iconoclastic” and so a joint promotional iPod “makes sense” got a genuine chuckle from me - did people buy more iPods because U2 were involved? From everything I saw of that time, it was ridiculed. Users had an entire album forced onto their devices that they had no interest in.

Then more “everyone is American” - I actually had to put the book down during the chapter explaining “the biology of belonging” with the sentence

“Go abroad and you’ll form instant bonds with other Americans you meet”

Other? I’m Australian.

I got really upset at repeated references to language structure having some “hidden meaning”. Is it a coincidence that the phrase is “hearts and minds” in that order? Or “art and science”… No. Not really. Sure, the rules are vague, but it’s not particularly meaningful in the way the author hints at. There are accepted orderings to some combinations of words known as “collocations” that “make sense” to a native English speaker - anyone who hears “chips and fish” will instantly recognise something is wrong. The “i” (/ɪ/) in both “mind” (/maɪnd/) and “science” (/ˈsaɪ.əns/) fits well into the regular pattern.

The same allusion to the layout of the “Golden Circle” having some correlation with the physical brain structure reeks of ill-informed motivational speakers and those who say “walnuts are good for your brain because they look like a brain”.

I’m still going to give the rest of the book a chance, but so far it’s not rating high.