Purpose Design is… a sequence to enduring value and increased performance

Purpose Design is… a sequence to enduring value and increased performance:

For better or worse, business conversations come down to one key idea: does it make money? To the most cynical, the question of money blinds all other concepts.

Friedman’s maximization of shareholder value represents the pinnacle of this reasoning. From this concept, there’s an ethical mandate to make money. The right thing to do is profit, plain and simple. All those ethical scenarios in business school are nice ways of batting around the question of what makes the business the most money within the legal limits of its governing body.

Even those who extend the purpose of business beyond the narrow view of Friedman require an instrumental view of profit. High-minded purposes around business and creating meaningful jobs for communities to flourish is a good idea. But that idea will never work if the company isn’t making money. When profit dies, the business dies.

So when questions of purpose, especially internally pertaining to culture and messaging, will always go only as far as the profit it provides, no matter how soft the metric.

Purpose: the engine of performance

When we consider purpose design, it’s always linked to how it provides increased performance and enduring value. When an organization creates key elements of purpose, installs it within its culture, exemplifies it within its visual expression, and follows through in its customer experience, the business flourishes.

Now, this progression does not necessitate immediate returns, although it obviously could create quick returns. But in the long run, defined purpose becomes the engine for increased performance.

This increased performance might result in an increase in sales, but that’s not the only way to measure value.

For starters, a consistent culture will help attract and retain the best employees, resulting in a decrease in cost for new employee onboarding and an increase in productivity and efficiency.

Visually, purpose creates an emotional connection with the customer. It inspires people at an intangible level. This might mean a brand association built over the course of time with customers, but it also emerges internally. The design of your office and how it connects to your purpose can increase the quality of life for your employees.

Think of that town in the middle of nowhere that people feel somewhat embarrassed to admit that’s where there from. Compare those discussions to people who have pride in their city. This example illustrates the power of place. The same applies to work. Your workspace can elicit pride or shame depending on how it’s designed, especially if that design connects to clear purpose.

Even more, purpose creates increased performance and enduring loyalty throughout the experience spectrum. It creates the structure in which experience can be evaluated and optimized.


Purpose design, then, is the foundational element to performance. If organizations don’t have a clear sense of purpose, then how will they know if they are ultimately succeeding in the bigger picture? Profit provides short-term answers to your success, but purpose drives your enduring value. What are you going to leave behind when your work has finished? Purpose design answers that question.

The Bottom Line:
  • How do you measure the success of your business? Do you have a purpose factor?
  • Consider drawing up 1-2 strategic initiatives aligned with your purpose that you can pursue over the next year. Create a roadmap to implementation of these initiatives and empower a few key voices throughout the organization to take ownership of the changes.
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