Words like ‘purpose’ can begin to take on a life of their own especially in these hyperconnected times, having nuanced and frequently different meanings to people and organisations. One woman’s purpose is another man’s mission. For some the immediate assumption is that the description of a purpose led company is only for those who set out to make a worthy social or environmental contribution. You will often hear social enterprises describing themselves as having a strong sense of purpose and that can reinforce this notion.
We think that all organisations have a purpose and the most successful businesses have shown that by discovering, embracing and authentically owning their purpose, one that exists beyond the exclusive role of generating economic value, they excel commercially faster than those who do not.
Purpose is a two sided coin – it is both emotional and rational and it is important to acknowledge and harness both.
Purpose can be simply the reason for doing something, good or bad, it’s the intended outcome and impact of what you have set out to do. For example, the purpose of a marketing campaign could be to grow market share versus another of retaining high value customers. Both have different intended outcomes and so need to have completely different plans with different actions.
It seems common sense that when you do something you know the purpose, however it’s often the case we aren’t fully aware of why we do what we do. We may do it unconsciously on autopilot as individuals, teams or organisations, perhaps because that’s the way it’s always been done. So we believe that being more aware and clear on your intension the more likely meaningful results will be delivered.
Purpose is also deeply emotional. It is a fundamental human need to feel that you matter and that your work matters. We’ve probably all thought ‘why am I bothering’ at points during our working lives. So purpose is a feeling, an inner sense that what we are doing matters, is making a difference, contributing to a higher mission, to customers lives, to our colleagues, to our families and friends, and yes for us as individuals too. It was once described to us as ‘we are all mixing cement but it helps if you have a vision of the cathedral’. When we have a purpose led vision and plan, we understand that we are building cathedrals when we lay our metaphorical bricks.
Without really knowing and executing against its purpose a company can lose its way over time. Without embracing and investing in emotional purpose it can lose its heart and with that the loyalty of its people and customers.
So thats why when we say purpose led, we mean being clear on the impact you want to have on your customers lives that is meaningful for you and the people in your organisation.