What’s the purpose of a purpose?

Covid-19 has been a shot in the arm for the P word.

Ever since ‘that’ Simon Sinek video started doing the rounds, Purpose has been on the radar of most self-respecting business leaders.

Having a Why? has been as essential as a Vision and Mission statement, taking pride of place, framed and hung in Reception.

However, the pandemic — aided and abetted by the climate crisis — has amplified our shared awareness of what needs to change across our societies. And Purpose has emerged, with a new energy, as one vehicle through which we can make a change.

It has to be said, that vehicle is often perceived as a bandwagon.

A cynic would say that having a Purpose statement can make us feel better about what we are doing in the world. It can generate some rather nice PR. It can even act as a deflector shield against criticism.

All this can be true but the cynical perspective unfairly overlooks the true meaning of Purpose for well-intentioned businesses: the ones that are genuinely up for re-evaluating the role they play in society and how sustainable value is created.

Leaders of these businesses are increasingly displaying a longing to be explicit about the role their organisation wants to play in society.

They want to articulate the meaningful challenge to which they want to direct all their resources and capabilities.

They would like to spell out a challenge that sits outside their business or a pain point they need to address on behalf of a stakeholder.

Clearly, this begins to show how Purpose runs deeper than a compelling Why?

An effective Purpose expands the boundaries of the traditional firm and invites your business to de-centre itself, putting the Purpose at the heart of the stakeholder ecosystem instead.

The act of de-centering creates the potential for unconventional collaboration across your ecosystem with stakeholders who share similar interest in solving the meaningful challenge.

With the benefit of this wider perspective, Purpose helps drive strategic choices and the way you allocate resources, since you can suddenly see the systemic breakdowns in your ecosystem, now the blinkers are off.

Taking this to its logical conclusion, Purpose sends out a very clear statement to all stakeholders what you hold as the number one priority.

What’s more, this meaningful challenge that you are committed to addressing may even, on occasion, put the Purpose ahead of your personal or corporate self-interest.

This is a challenging premise for any business. Too challenging for most, being honest.

Purpose is a commitment to change that involves mindset, capabilities and, ultimately, corporate reputation.

The question is, how ready are you to commit to running a Purpose-driven business, even if you want to?

This Readiness Indicator from Otherkind may help you make up your mind.

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I turn fluff into concrete. I help businesses communicate the most complicated things clearly and simply.

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Philip Morley

Philip Morley

I turn fluff into concrete. I help businesses communicate the most complicated things clearly and simply.

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