Years ago I saw a video from an outdoor music festival. The video showed a crowd of fans sitting on a hillside enjoying the concert. After a few seconds, one guy stood up and started dancing. By himself. He continued dancing, awkwardly, by himself for a minute or so. A few people nearby watched him but for the most part he was ignored.
Then after about a minute, a nearby person stood up and ran over to him and started dancing, awkwardly, next to him. When this happened, everyone around them started looking around at each other like “what is happening?” After a few seconds, a third person jumped up to join them, then a fourth, then a fifth. Within a minute or so, the entire hillside was dancing, awkwardly, together and enjoying themselves.
This spontaneous hillside dance wasn’t triggered by the first guy that got up. It was triggered by the SECOND person. When there was just one guy dancing, it was easy to dismiss them as simply being that weird awkward-dancing guy. But when the second person joined, then they were a group. Suddenly it became much easier to join them if you wanted to. Then when a few people started joining, the dynamic flipped from being weird to being cool.
I was remembering this spontaneous hillside dance yesterday when I re-watched Simon Sinek’s brilliant TED talk on the power of why. You have likely seen this talk, but even if you have, it’s worth another view:
If you think about how most companies can tell you what they do but struggle to talk about why they do it, it seems to be rooted in this desire we all have to promote ourselves or talk about ourselves. This is what’s important to me.
But the ‘why’ gets to the heart of why your idea can hold importance for OTHER PEOPLE. That’s where the magic happens. When other people see the value in your idea, they become invested shareholders of that idea. They help nuture it, they help grow it. They share it with likeminded people and invite them to nuture and care for it as well.
When you think about companies, who they are and what they do and WHY they do it, can you more easily describe the WHY or the WHAT?
I can describe the WHY for Red Bull, but only the WHAT for Monster Energy Drinks.
I can describe the WHY for Patagonia, but only the WHAT for Columbia Sportswear.
I can describe the WHY for Pedigree, but only the WHAT for Alpo.
But at the heart of all this, we are talking about what’s important to the customer, and putting that first, and putting ourselves second. As Sinek has said “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”
Which goes against human nature. We want to tell others how they can help US first, and after they do, we then ask “Ok how can we help you?” But the magic lies in putting yourself in second place and putting the person whose money or attention or time you want, putting them first.