In the business world, startups are invariably innovative, emerging out of an entrepreneur’s purpose or passion. They scale up into a business with formal structure, which then slides into the abyss of financial objectives. Unfortunately, the purpose now gets buried under some ‘mission statement’ that very few employees understand. Most of them frequently walk past the mission statement on the wall to address their boss or customer’s immediate need. Innovation becomes an enabling tool with emphasis on speed and cost. The larger the organization, the deeper this abyss gets.
And then comes the annual cycle of updating the business strategy; supposed to guide the teams on how to compete successfully in the marketplace. New products, services, or new markets is one of those guidelines. Innovation and strategy are often mistakenly viewed as separate approaches, and I hear CEO’s saying “let’s get our strategy first, and then we will work on innovation.” That is as good a sign of an aging organization as any.
Purposeful Innovation is the Best Strategy.
It is not a keyword or an action item to support strategy. Purposeful innovation is the way for an organization to be forward-looking and deliver true lasting value, besides financial responsibility and sustainability. Ray Stasieczko says, “Innovative organizations understand the importance of relevant products; while dying organizations stay obsessed with selling the relevancy of their soon to be obsolete products.” Innovation is the most important factor in economic viability, technology adaption, social well-being, and sustainable development.
The purpose generally comes from the heart of the leadership, and it can be at various levels, broadly classified below:
Financial Drive (Exist and Thrive)
Where the purpose is to provide enough sales and profit margins, to stay in business, and perhaps grow. I find this to be the lowest level of purpose, although mostly described, justified, and referred to under the context of ‘business decisions’. I would prefer to call it merely an objective so you can exist for a larger purpose, … to create value in some form.
Technology Push or Industry 4.0
When the purpose is to successfully develop, leverage, enable, exploit the cyber-physical integration into process, product, service, or business application. It is OK to have a technology development as a defined purpose, but it makes a lot more sense to connect it with an impact on everyday living.
Social Pull or Society 5.0
When the purpose is to create a better life for human beings. This is the Japanese perspective and response to Germany’s Industry 4.0; Cyber-Physical-Human confluence to create a smart society. This is the onset of purposeful innovation and it now begins to make sense. Technology for the sake of technology or money only brings us halfway. Application for the benefit of humanity is where it ought to lead us.
Sustainability and Sustainable Development
This is where your purpose goes beyond humanity and addresses the sustainability of life on our planet for a long time to come. The focus includes protecting the environment and all of life; both on land and underwater. As of 2019, humanity is consuming 1.7 times what Earth is giving us, annually. Imagine, if your budget needs were 1.7 x Revenues.
Amazon Mission – To build a place where people can come to find and discover anything, they might want to buy online. Lead with 3 core ideas – Lots of choice, Fast delivery, Competitive pricing.
Apple Purpose – To empower creative exploration and self-expression.
Apple Mission – To bring the best user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software, and services.
David Packard’s speech to Hewlett Packard in 1960 – Purpose is like a guiding star on the horizon – forever pursued but never reached. Yet although purpose itself does not change; it does inspire change. The very fact that the purpose cannot be fully realized means that an organization can never stop stimulating change and progress.
Google Mission – Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible & useful.
Tesla Mission – Accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable transport energy.
Volvo Purpose – An Automobile is driven by people. Safety is and must be the basic principle in all design work. – Cofounders in 1939.
Your purpose is your choice. I do not expect you to rewrite your purpose in terms of planet sustainability, but I do sincerely hope that whatever innovation purpose you may choose to pursue next, you are at least aware of its impact on sustainability, and will do whatever possible to conserve the only earth we have been blessed to live on. In other words, you would try to pursue responsible innovation.
Let’s Take a Selfie
# Up until now, my purpose has been _______________________,
whereas it could be__________________.