Finding a Purpose

Finding meaning in our work is something we all want. But achieving this is a privilege that very few can afford. How can we reach this goal at an organizational level? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

  • Amid the pandemic, we all faced a wall of uncertainty. And it led us to revisit and reflect on some very important questions.
  • What’s most important to me? And how can I contribute?
  • It’s human nature to seek these answers—to pursue a purpose.
  • And as marketers, it’s often our job to help organizations do the same. In a way that impacts all stakeholders. Our customers, team, and investors.
  • Achieving these results involves navigating tough challenges. Skepticism from stakeholders. Internal alignment. And impatience for the pay off.
  • There’s also disagreement among many marketers about whether having a purpose is good and useful.
  • While there are understandable concerns around potential risks, it’s a mistake to write off purpose as a nice-to-have.
  • The evidence is clear. Organizations with a purpose consistently outperform in the market.
  • So what does purpose actually mean for organizations?
  • We like Henderson and van den Steen’s take: a concrete goal or objective that reaches beyond profit maximization.
  • This objective doesn’t have to be all high and noble—like saving the planet or changing the world.
  • That kind of grandiosity can set you up for accusations of ‘purpose washing’ or simply make you look a bit ridiculous. Think of Pepsi and Hellmans.
  • Purpose can simply be the reason why a company was founded. A great example is P&G. “To provide branded products and services of superior quality.”
  • Purpose can also champion a social or environmental movement.
  • But it has to be part of the organization’s core strategy. And make sense in the category. Think of Dove or Patagonia.
  • How can we pursue purpose at an organizational level?
  • Ron Carucci points out that the work needs to start at the top. Leadership teams must be aligned. And committed to turning their purpose into operational reality.
  • Dr. Graham Kenny’s suggestions include educating staff about stakeholder needs and broadening.
  • As for measuring impact, many organizations use the Contexis Index—a tool that factors in clarity, alignment, ownership, and trust.
  • Last but not least, let purpose evolve with the organization. Purpose is a living thing that requires nurturing and revisiting.
Issue #156
Nov 20, 2022

Further Reading