9 Whys That Explain Behavior

May 8, 2014

in Events, Leadership, Team Building

During the second day of the EO Global Leadership Conference today, I attended a breakout session by Ridgely Goldsborough, author of “The Why Engine.” The book declares that everyone has one and only one “why” that defines how they operate. And there are 9 potential “whys” into which everyone can be categorized.

While I don’t necessarily believe everything this book has to offer, I think it is interesting to discover the “why” behind how people operate. Knowledge of the “why” can help organizations better communicate and resolve conflict.

Here are the 9 Whys and famous people that have those Whys as their defining feature:

  1. To contribute to a greater cause, make a difference, or add value. (Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Michael J. Fox, Jim Rohn)
  2. To build trust or create relationships based on trust. (Goethe, Elton John, Stephen Covey, Sam/Frodo/Merry)
  3. To make sense out of things, especially if complex or complicated. (Alan Watts, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Cisneros)
  4. To find a better way. (Elon Musk, Isabel Allende, Bela Karolyi, Ross Perot)
  5. To do things right or the right way. (Henry Ford, John Wooden, Eleanor Roosevelt, W. Clement Stone)
  6. To think differently and challenge the status quo. (Steve Jobs, Herb Kelleher, Sara Ramirez, George Carlin)
  7. To master things, or seek knowledge. (Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Michelangelo)
  8. To clarify, create clarity and understanding. (Robert Frost, Vincent Van Gogh, Ludwig Wittgenstein)
  9. To simplify. (Confucius, Joan Miro, Peace Pilgrim, Henry David Thoreau)

When what you do aligns with why you do it, you have passion.

One way to do startup taglines is to craft them around your organizational “why” rather than your “what.”  Apple’s tagline for instance is “Think Differently.” That is their “why” not their “what.”

What are your thoughts on these 9 whys? Which “why” best defines you?


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