Purpose is not a business goal

We know that purpose is the new competitive advantage. Customers and employees want to work for and buy from companies that are aligned with their own values. The idea that we’re hearing again and again is that a business’s purpose is linked to its profit, so if you want to be profitable you need to be purpose-driven.  A lot can be said about the association between profit and purpose, but what I find interesting is how business purpose is sometimes conceptualised and understood as a business goal.  Purpose thrives when a story mindset is applied, or as John Kay says in his book Obliquity when we take the indirect route rather than the direct one.  It’s one thing to put purpose at the core of your business because you believe…
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The enemy of your stories

narrative, story, vision
Business narratives are hard to convey because they force us to articulate why our business exists and why others should consider what we do.  Jeff Bezos’s executive meetings start in silence. Everybody has 30 minutes to read the executives’ six-page memos in which they discuss their ideas in narrative form. Why in narrative form? So that everybody fully understands what they are trying to present. PowerPoint is not allowed. A business needs to be clear about its narrative before turning it into stories. The narrative covers why they are here, why they cares, what they are changing, and why it matters. The narrative can sometimes be understood as the foundations of the story. Apple’s narrative is great design and performance, and building a better future. Before we tell any story…
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There’s no ego in that

We’re all wondering about the story that we can tell during the pandemic. Some businesses are changing their focus, moving online, starting to manufacture products they’ve never made before, finding new creative ways of servicing their customers.  Before the pandemic Canlis, in Seattle, was one of the finest restaurants in the West Coast; today it has been converted into a drive-through. In the morning they serve bagels, and for the rest of the day it’s a burger stand. They’ve moved fast – the whole transition was made in 15 days. They’ve kept their 115 employees, and might even need to hire more.  William Canlis, one of the founder brothers, said “What I love to do is to feed people. There’s no ego in that.” You can move forward with your…
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What’s already emerging

coronavirus, purpose
The coronavirus outbreak is changing how we interact with others: the implementation of social distancing measures and the inevitable virtual work meetings seem to be bringing us closer to others. We care for our neighbours, for the elderly and for the most vulnerable in our town as we never have before. In my work as a story coach helping leaders to translate their purpose into story, I obsessively observe peoples’ behaviour, trying to understand how it will eventually evolve into social norms and standards.  If you have been reading the news lately you’ll have noticed the level of scrutiny that businesses are subjected to these days. The main standard of whether a business is behaving according to what is now expected seems to be how they balance profit and people,…
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Time to upgrade your purpose

consumer behaviour
You might be finding yourself checking the news more often, calling friends and relatives to see if they’re OK. You might have decided to self-isolate or be living in a city on lockdown. You might find yourself working from home and homeschooling your kids. Maybe you’re worried about losing your job or wondering how the current situation is going to affect your business. You’re probably finding it difficult to focus on your work as your thoughts jump from one place to another. At times like this we all have similar worries. No matter whether you’re a CEO or a freelancer, everybody is thinking about what this outbreak means to our lives and the lives of those who are precious to us. But we know one thing for certain. Things are…
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What I’ve learned about finding and defining purpose

I wrote this post before the coronavirus outbreak, but I think it makes even more sense now. This is the time when all of us look at the contribution we want to make and the purpose that guides what we do. And more importantly, we ask others to do the same. These days purpose becomes more than ever a place where businesses define who they are. ------------------------------------- In my work I help leaders to articulate their purpose and achieve extraordinary results by owning the story of why they do what they do. Some of these conversations may not be easy, because we need to go through many layers before we can answer the question what your purpose is: this includes expectations about success, need for the approval and acceptance of…
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Getting lost

At first I thought it was my problem. I wondered if I might be the type of person who tends to complicate things. But later I saw others following a similar pattern. When we care, things start to get complicated. From relationships to business, once who you think you are gets into the conversation it’s going to get messy.  Any purpose-driven business knows this. Solutions to our major problems and challenges come with huge trade-offs and implications. When you care, you start being mindful about the consequences of your choices, and you might get confused.  Getting lost for a good reason might be good if it’s because you’re truly assessing what you’re doing and the impact of your actions. At what point you will need to compromise, we all do,…
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Do you want to change the world? Publish a book

Book, discrimination, women
Ann-Sophie Claus and her team worked for more than a year to raise awareness of the tampon tax in Germany, where tampons were taxed as a luxury good at a staggering 19%. They collected more than 190,000 signatures against this practice.  However, reality soon hit them. When the German Finance Minister said that he would not support a reduction tax because he couldn’t be sure companies would pass the reduction to consumers, they realised nothing was going to change.  So Ann-Sophie and her team created the Tampon Book. Her company, the Female Company, sells organic sanitary products, and the founders decided to put their creative minds to work to find a way to make their protest more effective.  Books are taxed at 7% in Germany, so if they put tampons…
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My authentic story

If you ask my son to tell you his story after he’s lost a football match he’ll probably say that his life is terrible, and start enumerating different episodes to confirm this. If you ask one of your colleagues at work to tell you their story they’ll probably adapt the story according to their mood and what’s going on in their head at the time. The story we tell is a choice. My story on a rainy day is as authentic as my story on a sunny day. It’s good to know that there’s not only one authentic story about ourselves. We can choose our story according to what we want to create and who we’re telling it to. Being authentic is an invitation to live our lives as who…
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Swing for the fences

Melinda Gates tells the story that when Warren Buffett donated the bulk of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation he urged them to “swing for the fences.” Swinging for the fences is a baseball expression that means hitting the ball as hard as you can to take it as far as possible. It’s risky because you might miss the ball completely, but if you hit it, well, the impact is huge. So their approach is putting all the bets at full force. With this approach you don’t go for incremental effort: you go for everything in one hit. To swing for the fences you need to be really confident about what you do, you need to really believe that it’s possible, and you need to really want…
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