A Framework to Uncover Your Business's Purpose to Be More Effective. Here's how...

It’s no big secret the market is rewarding businesses who operate with a sense of purpose.

As the world becomes more and more transparent (through social media and the internet, mainly) and a growing sub-set of the market continues to value transparency and a deeper purpose more and more, it is pressing that we find/define our purpose as individuals and organizations. This purpose must then inform how and why we do.

(NOTE: even if the market wasn't valuing transparency and purpose and truth more and more, I think we still have an obligation to have a deeper purpose in our work)

But how do we find/define our purpose?

It begins with asking 'Why' enough times to discover our purpose. In the messaging we use as we build a brand of an educational nonprofit serving a marginalized population of kids in the D.R., one of the pieces of boilerplate language we liked to use when telling our story is “if all we’re doing is teaching kids how to read and write and get into college we’ve missed the mark. Our purpose goes deeper than what’s in the classroom. For us education is a means to build a relationship with students and families; education is our platform for building trust and transformation."

[I think I may have stolen this framework from a Tim Tebow interview I heard. If I recall he once said that if all he was doing is running around a field throwing touchdowns he’s missed it.]

I think this is a great way to frame our deeper purpose.


Just start with "If all we’re doing is [your what; the transactional offering of your business], we’ve missed the mark. [Then, insert deeper purpose here]"

Take some time to really uncover the deeper transformation you're looking to have with your tribe, the dent you're trying to put in the universe with your thing. It may not be super apparent right off the bat, so grab some coffee or beer (not too much of either though or it may backfire!) and brainstorm.

Remember, the “what” we’re doing is secondary to the how and why.

  • If all we’re doing is maximizing shareholder value, we’ve missed the mark. Our purpose is to help employees/customers/humans flourish.
  • If all we’re doing is winning cases, we’ve missed the mark. Our purpose is to act justly and bring rightness.
  • If all we’re doing is marketing by playing on people’s emotions/fears/insecurities, we’ve missed the mark. Our purpose is to authentically connect, drive value, and solve meaningful problems in consumers’ lives.
  • If all we’re doing is publishing stories, we’ve missed the mark. Our purpose is to compel and invite others higher up and deeper into a better more meaningful story.
  • If all we’re doing is helping local entrepreneurs get micro-loans, we’ve missed it. Our purpose is to build a flourishing community of businesses who will develop the local economy in a trustworthy, honest way.

I’ve found this framework to be wonderful in helping me calibrate the truer purpose behind why we’re doing what we’re doing in work and life. Framing our “thing” this way is a nice time-out which forces us to get to the root—the Why—which will inevitably help us be more effective storytellers and make a deeper impact.

What’s your purpose (individually or as a project or organization)?