Insights | 5.13.19

Innovators That I Admire – Let’s Start with Why – By Rob Baum, CEO of TechFlow

Our company’s success is based on our ability to innovate. For inspiration, I often look to other industry movers for insights and ideas. At heart, I am a technologist – I love technology and the profound impact it has on our lives.  For inspiration, for this techie, there is no shortage of innovators I can name that I admire including some of the early scientists that built our technology foundation to today’s modern-day visionaries that are shaping what our future will look like.

However, last year I turned to another type of innovator for inspiration, Simon Sinek, an author and motivational speaker.  Sinek is someone whom I consider to be a 21st century philosopher. When I returned to the CEO position here at TechFlow, I knew I needed to refocus the company and reset the vision and positioning to set us up for success. To do this, I revisited Sinek’s book Start with Why.

 In this book, Sinek defined a concept called The Golden Circle to illustrate how corporations define themselves – either from the inside out, or from the outside   in. The Golden Circle is really three circles that are each enclosed by the prior circle. The innermost circle he labels “Why”. The next circle layer around “Why” is  “How”.  And the final outside circle layer, he labels as “What”. He argues that most leaders start with “What” when they try to define their corporate culture –  what do they do or what do they create? Starting with “What” drives people to then tell you “How” they do it (the next circle).  Finally, leaders describe “Why”  they do it in terms that support “What” they create. This is the typical progression: most leaders describe themselves from the outside (“What”) to the inside (“Why”).


Sinek explains, with excellent detail, that this is backwards (and boring) from the way it should be done! Instead, he uses Apple as a prime example of a company that focuses on “Why”. If you begin by telling the world why you do something, it provides a much more compelling and passionate story.  For Apple, their “Why” was “Think Different”. This mantra inspired not only their employees but touched consumers by challenging the status quo – evoking a purpose and creating a cause everyone could rally around.  Once you establish your “Why”, you can tell them “How” you will do this, and then “What” your product or service is.  What you produce becomes the least important part of your message which seems funny – but it’s powerful!

Think of it this way: if Apple started with “What” their messaging might sound something like (quoting from Sinek’s book):

“We make great computers.

They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.

Wanna buy one?”

However, Apple starts with “Why” not “What”. Thus, their message sounds more like (quoting again from Sinek’s book):

“Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently.

The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.

And we happen to make great computers.  Wanna buy one?!”

As you can see, it is a completely different message and triggers a completely different response.

So, what is TechFlow’s purpose? Let’s start with “Why” we exist:  To be Always Ahead – we deliver agile, smart solutions tied to innovations that create efficiencies and drive value. “How” do we do this:  We challenge ourselves to think and act differently. We are driven to do better.  And “What” do we actually do: We deliver impactful solutions that leverage best practices, advancing technology and creative thinking to help our clients complete their missions.

TechFlow’s vision is to Think Ahead, Move Ahead, Stay Ahead – Lead with forward-thinking solutions. We are passionate about being “Always Ahead”. To make sure we stay there, we look outside-the-box for solutions, challenge the routine with fresh ideas and new perspectives, and work smarter through flexible and creative problem-solving so that we can set ambitious goals for ourselves and our customers – and meet them – and in doing so, make the world a better and safer place.

Yes, that’s our “Why”. It feels good and it all starts from there.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to watch Sineks’s TED talk or read his book. You’ll understand why he has chosen to lead a movement to inspire people to do what inspires them. He certainly had a positive impact on me.  I am living my life as part of this movement – truly inspired by what I do and committed to encouraging others to do what inspires them.