Why Purpose Matters

At Markd, we are excited that purpose is becoming a driver of strategy and decision-making in the business world in a similar way that leadership and innovation have been mobilising forces for decades. But what is the definition of purpose in a corporate sense? And why is it so relevant, now more than ever?

The Harvard Business Review published a landmark research report on the Business Case for Purpose in 2015. According to this survey, organisational purpose…

…is an aspirational reason for being which inspires and provides a call to action for a company, its partners and stakeholders to benefit the local and global society.

Here’s the thing about purpose. It touches on the internal and external. It connects people, companies, and communities to their values and actions in a way that nothing else can.

Living on purpose is our highest state of being at an individual but also at a company level. And perhaps in a disruptive business landscape, purpose becomes the necessary anchor to thrive in a more dynamic world.

The Business Case for Purpose

The business case of purpose is too compelling to ignore. According to the HBR research report, purpose matters not just in an abstract sense but in terms of today’s business metrics.

Much of the discussion suggests that purpose-driven companies make more money, have more engaged employees and more loyal customers, and are even better at innovation and transformational change.

What organisation doesn’t want more of that!

Yet the report highlights that whilst over 80% of executives surveyed said a strong sense of collective purpose was a driver of positive change, only 46% said their company was acting on purpose.

It seems that for most organisations something is missing between the theory and reality.

Purpose-driven leadership

At Markd, we take a people-centric view of purpose. We fundamentally believe purpose-driven leadership creates purpose-driven organisations.

In every great company, there is guaranteed to be a founder’s story with a purpose that has, in some cases, managed to outlive him or her. Using a current example: could Richard Branson do what he does if he didn’t have some underlying fire-craking purpose driving him? Definitely not.

We’re not all going to be Richard Branson (granted) but we can be more purposeful leaders with our own founder’s story driving us, whether we’re creating or helping to build a company. And until the machines take over, companies will always be created and built by people. This is why purpose remains a deeply human experience that we can all partake in.

Moving from purpose to performance

If we’re all aligned to being more purposeful leaders and companies, then the question becomes how do you find purpose and embed it in your company culture?

The first step is to articulate your purpose. Your purpose comes from your values and in-particular your highest order value. Values should not be generic statements but unique to your company DNA.

Once you have a statement of purpose –  an active statement that moves head and heart  – the focus becomes bringing your purpose to life. Every medium should be used to achieve this – words, images, rituals, and messages internally and externally.

Purpose should ultimately inform strategy, decision-making and strengthen motivation and performance. It becomes the engine that drives company culture.

An old and new school idea

And so here lies the challenge and the opportunity. It’s an old AND a new school idea.

To have the greatest impact, purpose needs to come from the top.

Even the HBR report says it.

Owning and driving a sense of shared purpose is the CEO’s primary role. But this should be done with new tools of engagement. We believe this is how many more companies can reap the full reward of purpose to make their mark on the world.

If you are a leader wanting a new approach to turning purpose into performance, do reach out.

Sibon Schouten

Sibon Schouten

CEO and Founder of Markd

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