In the previous extract, I introduced the idea of Purpose of Significance.
Got some great feedback, though I think I need to be clearer: these are EXTRACTS as when I pasted the whole 4,543 words into WordPress it looked shit and overwhelming!!! 🙂
In this extract, I’ve shared 3 of the 7 organisations I’ve picked as examplars, companies that act with real Purpose of Significance.
- Does this kind of content make sense?
- Can you see how their Purpose has them act in an unusual, positive ways?
- Do these kind of organisations inspire?
- Also included in the full chapter: Apple, Google, Grameen, Mooncup or People’s Supermarket – how do these look as a full set?
Who is leading the way?
Let’s look at some examples of pioneering businesses to get under the skin of what is really possible here.
Patagonia, California, USA
Patagonia, the manufacturer of outdoor equipment with a particular heritage in climbing, is a wonderful business. You may have read ‘Let My People Go Surfing’ by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard (if you haven’t, do!). With a long track record in zigging when other businesses zag, and having a consciense that goes beyond box ticking, Patagonia was one of the two original creators of the 1% For The Planet initative – a global movement of over a thousand companies that donate 1% of their sales to a network of environmental organisations worldwide.
In its most recent, and perhaps most inspiring and jaw-dropping move the company has formed an alliance with eBay to actively promote and encourage existing owners of Patagonia equipment and apparel to sell it in a branded shop called the Common Threads Initiative within eBay. It is actively encouraging potential customers to buy second-hand, used equipment. And not just inside eBay: items listed for sale in the Common Threads Initiative are also promoted on the ‘Used Clothing & Gear’ section on Patagonia.com. In conventional thinking, this is plain STUPID! This will, you’d think, negatively impact short-term profits, limit growth, generally not be a good thing to do.
20th century business goes out of its way to encourage as many new sales as possible. But, driven by a higher purpose and with a clear sense of itself and what it stands for, Patagonia intends to tangibly address the issues of global sustainability itself. This not only addresses one of the greatest challenges our society faces, but also leads from the front: I recently met with one of Patagonia’s biggest competitors and he told me, smiling with admiration, that this move ‘changes the game, changes everything’. Brilliant!
This is truly a Purpose of Significance in action. As Chounaird is quoted in a BusinessWeek article from 2006: “”Every time we do the right thing, our profits go up”. Smart business; 21st century business.
Patagonia in 2005: $260m revenues in 2005, 1,250 employees.
Noma and The New Nordic Cuisine, Copenhagen, Denmark
Have you heard of Noma? If you’re a foodie, the answer is of course yes. Noma was ranked as Best Restaurant in the World by Restaurant in 2010 and 2011. Noma isn’t in New York City, Tuscany, the hills of Catalunya, Paris, London or Tokyo. Noma – famous for dishes and flavours that celebrate the very best of Nordic/Scandinavian produce – is in Copenhagen, the gorgeous capital of Denmark. When you start to look into the story behind Noma there’s a fabulous and inspiring story of how purpose and meaning can fuel incredible achievement, and simultaneously create and empower a whole generation of likeminded changers.
As Claus Meyer, co-owner of Noma, describes on his website: “Less than 10 months after the opening of our restaurant “noma” November 2003, head chef, manager & partner Rene Redzepi and I took the initiative to organize “The Nordic Cuisine Symposium”. The day before the symposium September 2004, at an 18 hour long workshop, some of the greatest chefs in our region formulated the New Nordic Kitchen Manifesto. The Nordic Cuisine Movement was born!”
The movement that Meyer describes goes much further than fancy restaurants for the few. In 2005 the manifesto was adopted by the Nordic Council of Ministers and their extended national development programmes. You can find articles about The New Nordic Cuisine on Denmark.dk the official website of Denmark and Meyer himself participates in a long-term food programme with the Danish government and universities to improve food health including around childhood obesity.
This manifesto is a fantastic example of a group of individuals transcending their own self-interests to put down a marker and describe a Purpose of Significance that inspired and enabled a whole movement.
In doing so Noma created and placed itself in a context of higher meaning. A backdrop that could engage and impassion every would-be employee, every diner, every producer and supplier.
Would this have been possible if it was simply one person’s drive for greatnesss? If it was the same old story about a celebrity TV-friendly chef on their way to millionaire-dom? Ask a Dane what the New Nordic Cuisine has done, and they will tell you: restored pride in our national identity; changed our expectations and habits around eating and food; promoted Denmark to the world. This is what can be done with the power of Purpose of Significance – change that affects millions.
Noma sales, profits, size.
Anonymous, the internet, everywhere
Anonymous is an interesting organisation. For starters, I’m not sure how we’d define or understand it as an organisation, and certainly not as a business – Anonymous is usually referred to as ‘a loose collective of hackers and activists’ or similar. Anonymous is very much of the Zeitgeist: at the heart of recent activism including the Occupy movement; digitally networked; apparently decentralised; powerfully branded; and perhaps most fascinating and relevant here, motivated by a very strong sense of values and justice. And in this very changed world, we need to look at the edges and the radicals to understand how all of our organisations are going to have to change.
At the time of writing Anonymous may have:
• Hacked the Sony Playstation Network, creating huge reputational damage and heavily impacting the share price of Sony
• Hacked the Iranian government
• Threatened a Mexican drug cartel
• Threatened NATO
• Taken down 40 child porn websites and published the names of 1,500 frequent visitors to one of the largest of these
It would be easy, thinking with a conventional mindset, to write off Anonymous. What would the old school business person say? ‘Kids, hackers, mindless vandals, people with nothing better to do – lock ‘em up!’. I think that’s missing the point. Anonymous is creating enormously powerful results, and at its core their is this sense of purpose – as they say themselves: “We are fighters for internet freedom”.
If we pay attention there is much the conventional business can learn from this unpaid, volunteer network of loosely connected activists. What Anonymous provides the 21st business person with is an unexpected and powerful example of the real-world results that can be created when people unite behind a shared Purpose of Significance. And Anonymous achieves all of this in a world where there are record numbers of young people unemployed, where technology is increasingly pervasive and disrupting of the status quo, and as Bill Rhodes, the famous banker puts it “new technologies mean that markets move in nano seconds”.
Specifically, how does Anonymous communicate its purpose, its intentions and values? How did Anonymous create these in the first place, or do they just emerge and develop over time? What is that Anonymous does that allows it to transmit its purpose so clearly to the world with so few conventional resources at its disposal? And perhaps what would our organisation look like if it were more Anonymous-like?
Anonymous statistics: unknown!
The final extract from this chapter will be on How to get there!, coming later this week.
Thank you so much for your attention:
Please give me your feedback, comments, suggestions and support either in the comments section, tweet @willmcinnes / hashtag #cltrshck or email firstname.lastname@example.org.