What is purpose, anyway? A lot of people are searching for it. Human beings are wired to find purpose, and meaning, in our experiences, in our work, and in our lives. When navigating significant levels of disruption, we often work to find meaning in that, too.
In short, a purpose statement for a company explains why it exists. For individuals, a purpose statement defines who you are and what you stand for – it reflects your passions and values.
General Electric CEO Larry Culp recently announced a historic decision – to break up GE into three separate companies focused on climate, healthcare and aviation. At the turn of the century, GE was the most valuable company in the United States. At that time, Fortune magazine declared former CEO Jack Welch the “Manager of the Century.” Today, the company is in the process of being separated. In a recent Fortune magazine interview, Culp was unapologetic. He emphasized that the move was “about position and purpose.”
The question of value, to your clients and to society at large, is often realized through your company’s strategy and vision of the future. But this shouldn’t just be merely an ambiguous stated goal, it should be something that you feel that you can actually perform – a value that the market needs.
Margaret Heffernan wrote a book titled, Uncharted: How to Navigate the Future. She points out several questions to consider when thinking about your purpose. They include:
- What do you believe that you can do?
- Why do you matter?
- How can you make a difference?
- What would be lost if you did not deliver value?
- Why are you in business?
Although these questions require rigor to answer them in a meaningful way, it is worth it. It helps to outline your contribution and why the work is worthwhile. Having a purpose will help you to clarify your desired future position, and help you navigate any rough waters that arise along the way.