In a single word, purpose conveys the notion that meaning, impact and values can act in mutually reinforcing ways. Still, unless purpose can be grounded somewhere concrete and practical, it’s at risk of becoming the latest confusing jargon about corporate responsibility.
According to the British Academy, which consulted dozens of top business leaders to produce its guidance on the subject, a company has a purpose when it produces “profitable solutions for problems of people and planet”. Comprehending the myriad ways in which your company affects the world can bring your organisation a more solid foundation than basing decisions on risk and reputation.
While purpose may involve reframing your organisation’s role in society, it should also implicitly acknowledge the feedback loop between internal culture and external impact. Any effort to build an ethical culture must focus on how organisational conditions impact employees. This means looking at power, resources, incentives and norms.
A good example of corporate purpose (supported by clearly stated values) comes from Australian tech company Atlassian: “Behind every great human achievement, there is a team. From medicine and space travel, to disaster response and pizza deliveries, our products help teams all over the planet advance humanity through the power of software. Our mission is to help unleash the potential of every team.”
Purpose cannot be imposed, however – good leadership creates the conditions for meaning to emerge.
Here are six ways to encourage the growth of purpose within your organisation and get the best out of your team.
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