What is the comparison of the inside-out versus outside-in marketing leadership using Sinek's Golden Circle?

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Simon Sinek correlates the why, how, what levels of his Golden Circle--a concept he codified from his analysis of the thinking of great leaders and innovators like the Wright brothers and Martin Luther King, Jr--to biological brain structure. Critical to his model of thinking from "why" rather than thinking from "what," Sinek explains that a cross-section of the human brain reveals three concentric sections that correspond precisely to the why-how-what levels.

The external level, the outer level, is the neocortex. The neocortex is the seat of logical, rational and analytical brain function that is governed by and expressed through language. This level corresponds to rational, language-based how-what thinking.

The middle and inner sections, the inner level, are the two sections that comprise the limbic brain. The limbic houses the most primitive brain functions. It is the seat of decisions, behaviors and beliefs that are governed by feeling. Critically, the limbic brain has no language function. These parts correspond with feeling, belief and intuitive why thinking.

Leaders who successfully engage in marketing or any innovative activity think from why conceptualization, beginning with what they believe about themselves, the world, their aspirations. An example is King's "I Have a Dream" speech in which he laid out what he feels, what he believes. These leaders are thinking from inside-out: they are thinking from the inner limbic why/belief brain function to the later how-what outer brain function.

Leaders who have great innovations and all the market elements needed to succeed but who do not succeed despite their advantages think from what-how conceptualization. They have a product etc that is valuable to the market place (what) and that is designed to be the best, the newest, the smartest etc (how), yet that product or service or concept does not appeal to the market place. They are ultimately not successful. Sinek uses the example of TiVo whose shares began selling at 40 but soon dropped to 10 or below and stayed there: they failed to succeed. These leaders are thinking from outside-in: they are thinking from the outer neocortex what-how (beginning with the outermost "what" circle) logical/analytical brain function. They never ascend to the why behind their actions.

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In his TED talks, Simon Sinek speaks about what he perceives to be a "golden circle" analogy in marketing, which shows innovators how to become empowered enough to take their innovative product, even if it is one that has never been used before (for example, the iPad or the iPod), and promote it to the point that people will buy it, even if they are not at all in the know what to expect from it.

The golden circle model tells marketers to ask the following questions to themselves, as individuals, prior to engaging in the process of promoting what is literally a "dream", or a "contraption" that emerged out of a dream, such as in the case of Steve Jobs and his creations. The questions are:

  • Why- Why do I believe what I believe?
  • How - How am I going to produce this dream?
  • What- What product will I have at the end?

According to Sinek, people buy into the concept, or the "dream" more than into the product. When people see passion behind creation, Sinek says, people want to become a part of it.

The inside-out versus outside in are two separate leadership concepts. A good leader would tap onto the Why's of what he does and leave the customer to think about the way the How's and What's fit into what their belief is.

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