Basically, he argues that most people/companies/groups market/sell something a certain way, but the truly transformational and inspirational leaders and companies act the exact opposite.
The idea centers on what, how, and **why **a company does what it does.
What - The product or service a company/person provides
How - The process (unique value proposition, differentiated skill set or process, etc.)
Why - The motivation (why the company/person believes in it, what makes them get out of bed in the morning)
Note: The “Why” is not to make a profit. Profit is a result, not a motivation (at least in his examples)
Everyone knows what, a lot of people know how, few know/understand why.
The conventional path is What --> How --> Why
Apple’s message if it used the conventional path:
We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed, user friendly and easy to use. Wanna buy one?
The inspirational path is Why --> How --> What
Apple’s inspirational message:
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, user friendly and easy to use. We just happen to make great computers. Wanna buy one?
By simply reversing the order of the argument, the message radically changes and helps develop interest and loyalty with the consumer.
Sinek goes on to apply the same model to the Wright brothers and MLK.