3 December 2021
Susanne van Mulken
Susanne van Mulken

Reason for purpose

Last week a friend of mine told me “Purpose is over: Every organisation does business the inclusive, sustainable or healthy way these days. So that’s no longer a way to distinguish yourself.” Interesting remark. For the sake of everyone’s wellbeing, I’d actually be very happy if every business indeed ‘did’ inclusive, sustainable or healthy. But if the only reason to do these is to distinguish yourself, well, then that effort is probably not going to last. Purpose needs to come from within. Trying to do or be something that you’re not at heart convinced of is a tricky business strategy. And like Ben Soppitt suggests, consumers can spot artificial corporate mission statements a mile away.

But apart from that there ís a reason for purpose. Still, or may be even more than ever.

“Money is the oxygen on which you run the race. But it’s not the finish line. The finish line is that you make the world more beautiful, that you solve a social problem, or an ecological problem, that you do something.” – Henk-Jan Beltman (Tony’s Chocolonely)

Purpose-driven

Having a purpose-driven business means taking the mission statement and turning it into more than just a motto (Forbes 2020). It’s about delivering on your promises. Making thoughtful trade-off decisions from the high-over strategy down to the finest detail of your service.

“A purpose-driven company stands for and takes action on something bigger than its products and services. Purpose can be an organisational strategy and a roadmap to remain competitive in a fast-changing economy. According to PwC, 79 percent of business leaders believe that purpose is central to success.” (Source: Carol Cone, Salesforce)

Purpose shouldn’t be over

Research indicates that businesses that have a purpose and communicate that purpose in a credible way experience particular benefits.

  • Customer satisfaction. Customers report a higher satisfaction. Eighty-nine percent of customers believe that a purpose-driven organisation delivers the highest quality (Edelman, 2013).
  • Business success. Businesses realise higher revenues. Customers who recognise retailers as purpose-driven spend 31% more with these retailers (Accenture, 2018). Also, businesses that have a clear purpose perform better stock marketwise. And 74% of consumers indicate a brand’s impact on society is a reason why brand trust has become important (Edelman, 2020). And trust, as we know, is an important factor in buying decisions.
  • Employee experience. Finally, research indicates that a clear purpose motivates employees, leads to better alignment and to higher productivity (Tonin & Vlassopoulos 2014 and McKinsey, 2020).

So it looks as though there is no reason to believe that purpose is over if you turn it into more than just words.

Purpose isn’t just ethics

Another misunderstanding is that being purpose-driven refers to ethical values such as inclusiveness, sustainability or health. It may concern less world saving values as well. Think of things like personal growth, quality, beauty, status, or efficiency.

Having a purpose and taking it to align all the decisions that need to be taken not only raises your credibility and helps deliver on your promise, it’s also a form of testing your business strategy to the max. From a design-strategic viewpoint that is a sensible thing to do. And a form of beauty!

True experiences

At Informaat, we prefer to break down a purpose into values. With values we can more easily start designing. By applying values-driven design or True experience design, as we call it.

What about you? Is it clear what your organisation stands for? What can you do so that people know?

Check out this scan and see how you can take your purpose to be more than just a motto. Take the next step towards values driven design and provide your customers with True experiences.

About the author

Susanne van Mulken (/susannevanmulken) is our managing director Strategy & Delivery and responsible for the development and application of experience design models, methods and expertise. As senior C/UX strategist and service designer, she has more than 15 years of experience in the strategic design of (digital) services in various industries, such as retail banking, insurance, telecom, climate control, and government. Before she joined Informaat, she worked on the development of intelligent user interfaces at the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). She has a master’s degree in Cognitive Psychology and a PhD in Cognitive Science.

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