Question: How do you quantify purpose?

Answer: 1:1.618

Most commonly known as the “Golden Ratio,” 1 to 1.618 is a ratio that’s been known and studied for more than 2,400 years. Recurring throughout nature and science, from music, to art, to mathematics, to geometry, biology and more, the golden ratio is widely understood to represent beauty.

Take a beautiful painting, a beautiful face, a tree, a flower, a mountain, a lake, or musical harmonics and measure it. The more beautiful the person, animal, place or thing, the more closely the ratio of its measurements will approximate a ratio of 1 to 1.618.

It’s like a code left for us by the designers of the Universe to remind us that there is a universal language in mathematics, and that even art can be expressed in numerical terms. This is why I do not accept the notion that purpose, values, and culture cannot be quantified in business terms. It’s just that the current analytical mechanisms we rely on are lacking.

Example: the “Profit and Loss Statement” (P&L)

The name itself is a misnomer. To say that a P&L is an actual “statement” is to say that profit and loss is static and unmoving, which is almost never the case. In any business and in every industry things are in constant flux, much like nature and the universal code that’s been left for us to uncover and explore. At best, profit and loss statements are like a snapshot in time. Perhaps we should call it a profit and loss perception, or a profit and loss view, but this kind of language would go against the grain of a financial system in which we attempt to pin everything down into neatly quantified packages that state things in definite terms.

Purpose Is In Constant Flux

It’s not that we say today we will focus 17.5% of our time on purpose and 82.5% on production. Purpose is something that becomes infused into everything we do. It relates to how we do things, rather than where we spend our time. But there is a way to measure it.

There is Beauty in Purpose

If physical beauty can be determined with a simple ratio of 1:1.618, why can’t we look for the golden ration in purpose-driven business? For example, what if the effort we spend on purpose (valuing and taking care of employees, suppliers, customers & investors) were equal to 1, and the actual output of product or service were equal to 1.618, and if that this ratio would determine a company with a strong culture, high employee engagement, high repeat business, some measure of ecological balance, and investors who are invested emotionally as well as financially, then we could say that this company is not just successful financially, but is also beautiful. In this way we could say that a successful organization with a strong culture would look like this:

Purpose Quantified

The measure becomes how beautiful a company is based on its dedication to purpose, and from its dedication to purpose it becomes successful in the holistic sense, which includes profitability.

This also works for individuals pursuing a purpose-driven career. The more a person approximates the golden ratio of purpose to output, the more fulfillment received beyond financial compensation.

So the next time you’re in a meeting and hear someone say that we can’t quantify purpose, you can say, “Yes we can, it’s 1:1.618.”