This is a huge subject, one with seemingly infinite opinions and reference. There are, however, two approaches that seem to consistently emerge; one, where purpose is strategy - released to 'incentivise, control, and align' the business operations, and, two, where Purpose is culture and is the business of the business, where all of the decisions, actions and feedback flow through the Purpose. In my experience there is a third, the business that believes it has no higher purpose. I'll come back to that later.
<aside> 💡 I use Purpose with a 'P' to denote Organisational Purpose and purpose with a 'p' for individual or personal purpose.
To number 1️⃣ I would say, organisational Purpose is not for 'release' or 'dissemination across the organisation’ and is not a strategy for management and competitive advantage. Sadly, this is the way many larger organisations and education institutions experience and teach organisational Purpose. Taking this route is not impossible, and larger organisations would argue this is the only way to enact Purpose at scale, but it is complex and challenging to believe in.
Purpose is not a slogan written over the surface of an organisation, where the calm surface obscures turbulent depths, or Purpose washing by another name.
Number 2️⃣, when experienced directly gives Purpose real meaning to our business and our work. There are, of course, the everyday business challenges, that is the reality that tests our commitment to our Purpose through our principles, organisational and operating model, and behaviours.
Purpose is not static, but rather a living and evolving guiding principle and within which we can create a better and thriving future. It has many names, North Star ⭐ - Flag ⛳ - Anchor ⚓ - it is why we work together within our business to amplify our mission to deliver our Purpose.
Do the 3️⃣'s really have no purpose, other than their daily operations, customer service and sales targets?
All businesses are a human creation and all humans are a 'collection of purposes'. If we have forgotten why the organisation exists and who it serves it can be rediscovered, and re-energised.
It's also worth considering that in the 2020 Edelman study, 'ethical drivers [are] 3X more important to company trust than competence'. We all need to be good at what we do, that’s a given. We must also be ethical, responsible, and sustainable in why we do it, not as a slogan, but by purposeful design and culture.
Don't 'future discount'
I get the sense that many of the younger generation feel lost, in a way that I, and from what I can remember, much of my generation rarely did. There are many reasons for this I know, but one critical factor creating this sense of despair is our way of doing business and extractive business models and mindsets. This quote sums up the need of a friend had previously worked for a B Corp, a business that was striving to be a 'force for good' for its people and planet.