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A WHY is a unique contribution and its effect on the world. It is why we do things the way we do them best. Both individuals and organizations can discover their WHY.
The WHY is based on people’s stories. They can be positive or not-so-great experiences that have deeply impacted an individual or a group.
But what about Startups or Scale-ups? Startups are companies that exist for a very short time, and Scale-ups are about five years old. Despite believing in their product, they have had few experiences as a company that are the basis of their WHY.
Benefits of a WHY
The benefits of discovering a common WHY Statement for a Startup are much the same as those for an organization that has been around longer:
- It acts as a compass and helps keep direction in times of turbulence
- It helps make decisions about products and services
- It attracts the right people and customers who believe and feel what the startup feels, so they feel at home there
- It gives energy and motivation (even when the going gets tough).
But for a startup, there are several other benefits to discovering a WHY Statement:
- It immediately creates a strong emotional base that can enhance a startup’s success
- The founders (and investors) get to know each other better
- It saves time and money: If it turns out that one (or more) people do not recognize themselves in the WHY Statement, they can decide to get out earlier. This also prevents frustration or arguments about the direction of the Startup
What does a WHY discovery journey for Startups look like?
As for individuals and organizations, the discovery journey consists of two sessions. The first is to formulate a draft WHY Statement, and the second is to formulate the HOW’s of the business.
Preferably, up to five founders and investors meet in the first year of the Startup’s creation. These are the ones who came up with the concept and the people who will be most involved in the company. More participants (up to 30) are allowed, but then we apply a modified program.
During the first session, all participants tell personal experiences they have gone through that have touched them deeply. These can be experiences that have determined the course of their lives. They may be personal stories as well as work-related stories that have emotional significance.
Each participant tells about three stories, and we, as facilitators, distill from the stories recurring themes that are either contributing to or impacting the world.
We write participants’ themes individually on a large piece of paper. As you can imagine, there are many different themes afterward. Examples from a recent session with a Startup are making the impossible possible, freedom, enjoyment, or meaning.
Finding common themes
Once all the stories have been told and the themes written down, the common themes are found. These are the same themes that are common to everyone. Examples from the recent session with a startup are trust, connection, sincerity, thriving, or excelling.
Based on these, a selection of five themes that resonate most strongly with all participants is made. Each theme connects to a sense of an experience of each participant. For one participant, a theme of “connection” may recall an experience with a parent, and for another participant, with the guests he served in a restaurant.
Making a draft WHY Statement
With the five themes, a draft WHY statement is made by each participant. These are read aloud to the rest of the group, and the statement’s relationship to the stories told is explained.
Finally, one draft WHY statement is chosen from all the statements. Avoid a semantic discussion and, above all, let feelings play a role here. The draft WHY statement does not have to be perfect and should not be a combination of several statements. It should be the one that feels best for all participants.
The remaining themes
Because the draft WHY statement contains only three to five themes, many common themes remain. In a follow-up session, the HOW’s of the Startup are formulated from these remaining themes. These are an organization’s ways of working. They are not values but rather action-oriented character strengths and their meaning. An example of a recent session with a Startup is the theme of sincerity. The HOW is that it flows from the heart and manifests, for example, that you help people without expecting anything in return.
The first session to formulate a draft WHY statement takes four to six hours. The second session to define the HOW’s of the business takes about three to four hours. The second session also clarifies WHAT the Startup can do to keep the WHY alive.
The big advantage of sessions with a Startup is that there is not only a common WHY Statement for the participants. The first session also identifies all the individual themes of the participants. Participants can relatively quickly define their WHY Statement and verify that it aligns with the Startup’s WHY.
Discover your WHY!
As a Startup, do you want to discover your WHY? We can help you. Contact us today to get to know us!
What is the WHY of your Startup or organization? How did you discover it? Let us know in the comment box below. Please share them with other readers of this article, and we look forward to reading them from you, too!