We all began at some point in our careers with some sense of why we chose our particular career path or business to launch. All too often with the challenges of daily responsibilities, balancing work with life, and the natural ups and downs that we all experience we can lose sight of our deeper purpose.
It’s not an either or, in the sense that we either fully embody our purpose in our work or we’ve completely forgotten it, but rather we tend to exist somewhere on a continuum and even vary from day to day in how much we come from purpose.
Embodiment of purpose in our work is what gives life to our work and our culture, and when an organization embodies purpose it comes to life in a meaningful way.
Why did people stand in line for five hours to purchase the first i-Phones when they were far more expensive than competing phones and it was uncertain how well they would work? Why did Gateway, a company who had been making flat screen computer displays for years, fail in the television market?
People understand what Apple stands for, and many people resonate with Apple so much so that they’re willing to risk time and money to purchase the next new i-product so they can be the first, even if it costs more and isn’t necessarily that much better than the next product—even if it isn’t better at all.
People didn’t get what Gateway stood for and therefore didn’t understand why a computer company would make a television. So even though Gateway was fully qualified to make excellent televisions their television venture failed—simply because we don’t know what their purpose is.
Embodiment of purpose is what sets us apart and gives life to our work. It’s what gets people excited about coming to work in the morning and builds buzz in the market place. And yet so few businesses achieve true embodiment of purpose.
The reason is because we’ve been taught for so long…no actually…we’ve had it blazed into our thinking that businesses exist to deliver profit and everything else takes a back seat to profitability.
The hyper focus on profitability has been the killer of purpose, and the killing of purpose has led us to mass-market marketing, commoditization, humdrum careers, and the failures of so many outstanding products and innovations. It’s also led to the degradation of our natural environment, wealth inequality, and the homogenization of culture.
The antidote is to embody purpose in all we do and to trust that the money will flow, just like Apple has done by challenging the status quo, and Southwest Airlines refusing to layoff in down times, and Zappos sharing profits with team members and WOWing customers, and Costco giving high wages, and Patagonia giving their technology away to competitors. These companies, and so many others, follow their purpose and trust.