Suddenly purpose is back.
We are told that Millennials want purpose. Which may be true. As much as many other non-Millennials. I wish we could stop talking about Millennials as if they were a particular type of android.
When used in business, purpose usually means social purpose. Social purpose is a noble aim which could be easily hijacked and absorbed into mainstream management speak with little meaning.
Maria Hengeveld describes very elegantly her presence at a conference in which she was supposed to write in the back of her badge ‘her purpose’. She also criticised ‘Davos style platitudes’ and how purpose could become a political correct device. See her piece here.
I suppose in the same way ‘social corporate responsibility’ is in many not terribly responsible places.
In a recent contract we have been asked to state our social corporate responsibility activities. My team did a bit of head scratching . We occasionally get requests from Procurement Departments, particularly of large clients, to describe our ethical source of materials. It is clear that nobody in those departments has bothered to understand our consulting business because I don’t think they mean the source of our paperclips, or toners for our printers. I think.
We call ourselves (with pride) ‘organization architects’ and I often get emails inviting me to Grand Designs type of events or greenfields with planning permissions. No, we don’t build houses, but their algorithm does not know. Tick, tick, tick
Will purpose become a new box to tick?
PWC has a ‘Chief Purpose Officer’. That is a symptom of commoditization. Do we need Chief Ethics Officers, Chief Customer Officers, Chief Kindness Officers, Chief Values Officers?
Business love institutionalization. It thinks that giving a structure and a title solves any problems.
I support any of those things provided that their goal is to self-destroy in a year or two. Proving that they are not needed anymore.
Let’s not have purpose hijacked as well . ‘Melted in the air’?