Simon Sinek on Why to Consider Outsider Opinions When Planning Strategy

In Chapter 7 of 20 in his 2011 Capture Your Flag interview with host Erik Michielsen, author and leadership expert Simon Sinek shares why he feels outsider opinions add value to strategic planning efforts. Sinek finds his own ideas by comparing and contrasting things that do not connect across government, politics, military, big business, small business, and non-profit. The experience takeaways Sinek gathers working across these industries allows him to learn and hone his own style of outsider expertise he then applies on client projects such as RAND Corporation. Simon Sinek is a trained ethnographer who applies his curiosity around why people do what they do to teach leaders and companies how to inspire people. He is the author of "Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action". Sinek holds a BA degree in cultural anthropology from Brandeis University.


Erik Michielsen: Why is it important to consider outsider opinions when planning strategy?

Simon Sinek: Oh, I mean working as an outsider or working with an outsider, they have perspective that you don’t have. I don’t think this is a revelation, you know I get to work with the Rand Corporation, which is the largest think tank in the world … one of the most prestigious think tanks in the world. And, you know I don’t have half, or even a quarter or even an eighth of the credentials of some of the people who work at Rand or who I work with. The thing they value from me – and they say this to me – is I have a perspective unlike theirs, and I raise questions and I see things that they can’t see. That they don’t see. And that is the value of an outsider. 

Erik Michielsen: Did your perception of that kind of outsider influence change at all once you started working with Rand or has that been something that’s always been constant in all of your work? 

Simon Sinek: I’m a great believer of looking outside; I mean all of my ideas come from comparing and contrasting things that don’t connect. I mean, the fact that I get to work in government and politics and military and big business and small business and non-profit … I learn something over here that I realize could solve a problem over here. And it is that breadth, that broad view, that I specifically take that specifically contributes to what I’m able to bring to all the others. And it’s amazing because they think that I’m an expert in their industry, and the answer is I actually learned it from somebody else. And that happens all the time.