Getting to the ‘why’ of your business

Posted on December 5, 2013. Filed under: neuresource group TV, Tara Neven | Tags: , , , , , , |

 neuresource TV presents:


Tara Neven on Strategy

Tara Neven on the neuroscience of strategy



‘Strategy’ is one of the well used, well trodden terms in business. It’s often brought out to solve a business challenge, to explain how something will be done, as well as to outline the specific steps required to achieve organisational goals. However, strategy can be hollow and often meaningless to the people that have to implement it if they don’t understand ‘why’ it’s important or just what it means to them.

The foundation of all strategy is actually getting to understanding the ‘why’ of the strategy in relation to the organization, including what it is and how it happens.  Simon Sinek, the author of  Start with Why,  challenges organisations and leaders within these organisations to ask themselves the following questions:

Why do you do what you do? Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty from customers and employees alike? Even among the successful, why are so few able to repeat their success over and over?


images (1)Sinek points out that any organization can explain what it does; some can explain how they do it; but very few can clearly articulate why they are in business. “Why” is not about money or profit those are always results (the how and the what). By understanding and answering the’ why’, organisations and leaders can be clearer about the strategy they are implementing. They are then more able to clearly articulate what the organization does and how it does it.

Starting with “why” works in big business and small business, in the nonprofit world and in politics. Those who start with “why” never manipulate, they inspire. And the people who follow them don’t do so because they have to; they follow because they want to. The goal is to develop a why that has meaning to everyone involved and that they see the ‘what’s in it for me’.

Organisations are living, breathing organisms just like humans.  They need food and they need education.  They need the freedom to learn things for themselves, to try and fail, and to get back up.   Inherently, long-term strategies mean that ALL decisions are made with an eye to the future20 years down the track, not next year.  That doesn’t mean you can’t make adjustments to deal with short-term pitfalls (because change agility is another key point in a resilient organization) .

Our growing knowledge of neuroscience can help leaders understand human behavior and more specifically, how they can more effectively lead behavior-based strategy implementation or change in their business.  (Be prepared to learn about the interplay among the basal ganglia (the habit center), the amygdala (the centre of emotions), and the prefrontal cortex (the centre for thinking and planning).  On their own, brain anatomy and physiology tend to be too broad to have much practical significance in the organisational environment, but when the brain is examined in the context of personal or organizational development, it can provide amazing insights and can also serve as a template for targeted strategies in accelerating the execution of  the overall strategy.


Accelerating the execution of strategies in an organization is a goal that all leaders share, no matter what industry they work in. By understanding the ways in which people and organizations work, business developers have been able to institute effective interventions in order to create a context for change through which the strategy can be implemented.

Short of a catastrophe in the business or a sudden change in leadership, what managers need to do is to send a strong message to people that things are different.

Here are a few tips for how you can support the development, communication, and implementation of the strategy through a clear understanding of  the ‘why’.

  1. Summarize the business challenge (or pain point)  through the lens of these cognitive and behavioral insights.  That way you are focused on the things that drive behavior.  After all, that’s what will support the implementation of the strategy. Remember, these are tools not rules, a checklist, or windows into the problem. Rather, these reveal an understanding of why this challenge exists in the first place.
  2. Put this challenge through the collective brain. No one brain has the answer, and brains love to collaborate. Provide an environment for collaboration and engagement around this business challenge at a macro and micro level. Don’t just focus on the executive team coming up with the answerstart with them to determine the questions (and asking the right questions are key), but then ask the the super heroes of the business, those that work in it every day and deal with the issues all the time. These people know what works and what doesn’t from a practical level.
  3. Test, measure, and trial the process or idea before full scale roll out. See if the idea works. Test it on a small scale so the risk is minimal. During this phase , seek feedback from all stakeholders on the planned solutions. Test what levels of engagement there might be from people who are affected or affecting the business challenge.
  4. Implement, but make sure people understand they why first. The how and what of the strategy are easy to communicate, the hard part is communicating the why. Get clear on that first.

The key to all of this is that organisations should focus less upon the competition out there and more upon their ideas and products. Human nature inclines us toward a competitive frame of mind rather than a creative mind-set. We are so busy trying to steal the other guy’s slice of the market-share pie that we forget imaginative ways to build a bigger pie.



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Tara Neven is the co-founder/director of neuresource group.  As an entrepreneur, business strategist, facilitator, learning and development and collective leadership specialist, Tara has over 15 years experience in corporate learning and development, education, business growth and organisational development. The last 10 years of this experience has been in remote and regional areas of Australia. Tara’s primary industry experience has been in the mining and resource sector, construction, local government and medium to large organisations.




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