How to make your purpose more than a Zoom background


After Simon Sinek so eloquently argued for ‘purpose’ to be at the core of every business, there has been a corporate movement towards every organisation writing one.

And whilst, ultimately, we agree a good purpose is a necessary tool in freeing your people to innovate in a complex and fast moving world, we see a lot of horrors out there. 

Some are boring, others too obscure, some relegated to a website page no one ever visits, and some are so grandiose and divorced from the day to day business to lose all meaning. 

So we’ve put together a few questions to help you see if your purpose is valuable, and how you might think about improving it. 

Does it unite us? 

A valuable purpose needs to help people in your organisation understand what they are trying to achieve. It needs to be specific enough that people can make a choice about whether they want to work to do that thing too. And it needs to be inspiring or interesting enough to motivate action. If it does this, then your people will be united in the endeavour of the company. 

Does it challenge us? 

A great purpose should be a constant challenge to do better,  to think bigger and to get there faster. It should stretch your innovation agenda, and give people the impetus, energy and logic for change. If it does this, then you’ll see people feeling freed to go after the ideas that they think are valuable. Innovation will happen without the need for management intervention. 

Can I use it to make a decision? 

Your purpose should be used on a daily basis to make hard decisions and provoke new thinking. When your people are trying to decide to do ‘a’, ‘b’ or ‘c’, they should be able to use the purpose as a logical compass to decide their direction. If you can create this habit in your people, over time everything within your organisation will be geared towards achieving your purpose, making it inevitable. 

Do I understand our unique point of view? 

A great purpose articulates not just why the industry exists, but your unique point of view on what needs to change. It should frame not just why you exist, but why only you can achieve it. It should guide your people not just in what to do, but the way they should do it. If your organisation has this it will have more energy and momentum, more customers who are fans not just purchasers, and more talent to choose from. 

Does this feel discovered or artificially created? 

if you’re the person charged with coming up with a compelling purpose, do not ‘black box’ the creation of it. Your new purpose will be rejected if people do not feel like it was created by them for them. Purpose that is created ‘top down’ can feel disingenuous, and alienating for the very people you’re trying to motivate. 

Your organisation’s purpose already exists. It’s why you were started, and it’s why the people driving your future joined you over others in your industry. It might be unevenly understood by your people, but it’s hiding in plain sight. The job is to find it and articulate it for everyone. 

If you want help to re-discover your purpose, get in touch.