The deep journey of shared purpose
A profound sense of why we do what we do empowers, supports and uplifts every thought, action and relationship.
The importance of having a clear organisational purpose statement that is connected outwardly is demonstrated very powerfully in the comparative review undertaken by Ernst and Young in their 2016 report. There they show that Nike have an $85bn market cap compared to Adidas with only $16bn. Now of course there can be many factors that create this differential but when you contrast their purpose statements the language they speak is vastly different:
Nike – Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world (*If you have a body you are an athlete)
Adidas – Strive to be the global leader in the sporting goods industry with brands built on a passion for sports and a sporting lifestyle
Imagine then how it feels for employees to be in an organisation where the stated purpose of that business is expressed in a way that truly underpins a ‘greater good’ ethos as distinct from one which however you dress it up is clearly only about growth and or profit and is full of corporate ‘jargon’.
For a purpose statement to be meaningful it has to meet at least three criteria in our view. Firstly, it has to be about the betterment of our world in some way – the collective of the planet, or humanity or the environment and so on. It has to have a deep sense of meaning that goes beyond naked financials.
It needs to have both an inspirational and an aspirational quality that coalesces the imagination and belief of the diverse and many people within the organisation. It’s not a marketing slogan though it may well play equally well with customers (such as Nike’s). The EY survey shows that ‘87% of consumers believe companies perform best over time if they place purpose before profit’.
And thirdly, it needs to be timeless. It’s not a mission statement or a vision. It’s not a goal that can be easily reached. It is an expression of ‘being’. A way of life. A deep sense of belief about what the organisation is here to do, why it exists and why its people work together in cooperation day in day out.
The risk we face in the world of organisational life is that we allow the discussion on shared purpose to become a ‘thing’. Something else on the corporate list of things to do to ensure ‘compliance’ or our place in the ‘great companies list’.
For sure we have to set aside time to connect with and eventually articulate the purpose and in that sense it is a ‘thing to do’. But it’s so much more than that – the journey to deeply connect into the core purpose of an organisation is just that a journey – it requires every executive and as many people within the organisation as possible to step into a place of being and to feel their way into the purpose. Creating a shared sense of purpose is a mental, physical emotional and spiritual process.
So if you need the business case numbers to convince you, they exist. And if you are ready to take the journey we can help.