When I first came across the concept of purpose, a couple of months after starting with Message House, I initially treated it as an incredibly useful tool that would help me deliver quality work for our clients. I used it to put myself in their shoes - to understand their audiences, their challenges and the difference they were trying to make through their work. I found that by focussing on the ‘why’ rather than the ‘what’ or ‘how’, all these competing priorities could be reconciled, giving me clear guiding principles for our work.
But the more time I’ve spent thinking about purpose, the more convinced I’ve become that it is not just a useful tool that can be used as and when needed, rather, it is central to how all business should be run. On the most basic and immediate level, it gives us a reason to get up for work every morning and something other than money to base success on. More widely, purpose can help return profits, power an inclusive economy, drive innovation and deliver real societal benefit.
At this point we should set out exactly what we mean by purpose. This is not always easy as purpose means different things to different people and, frustratingly, is often undermined by corporate jargon. For me, it boils down to three distinct but equally important factors:
- to provide a reason to exist beyond making money
- to provide some form of societal good
- to be actively pursued by an organisation
Encouragingly, there is currently strong momentum behind purpose. Consumers are driving a demand for ethical products and employers increasingly have to advertise their purposeful credentials to recruit the best talent. More businesses, large and small, understand that pursuing purpose can help them achieve their long term aims. I believe that in the current economic and political uncertainty, businesses that have a clear purpose and can demonstrate their contribution to society will thrive, whereas those who fail to do this will ultimately lose relevance and will likely struggle.
In our new report we make the case for purpose. It explores the landscape, lays out the benefits and gives clear guidance for how purpose can be brought to life within a business. I hope it’s an enjoyable and purposeful read.