One of the most provocative presentations for me at Sustainable Brands Bangkok last October came from Andy Last from Salt Communications. In his talk Andy asked the question “Who owns purpose in an organisation?” By this Andy was referring to the situation his company has come across in many businesses where they see different parts of the organisation start to get into the notion of purpose, but where conflicts and tensions start to arise because of the unresolved question of ownership.
One of the most interesting questions he posed was what do we mean by purpose. This is a great question and he answered it by suggesting that purpose is why you exist. But he went further with the following definition.
Purpose is what people would really miss if you didn’t exist.
As Andy remarked, if you didn’t exist and people happily move on to another company, then you have not really got a strong purpose.
I love this definition. On returning from Bangkok Maria and I have posed this question in a number of different settings and it can be really perplexing for people, not just in relation to the whole business, but to their department or projects, or proposals.
As Andy says, what are doing which is external to the business that drives societal benefit, “because if you are doing that, people really will miss you if you don’t exist”.
As I mentioned, it is an extremely interesting talk and you can watch the presentation here: