There are three problems with purpose.
The first problem is that a lot of companies really don’t have a big interesting purpose aside from making a profit no matter how hard they might go looking for it (which is absolutely fine in itself).
You can put a lot of standard webshops into this bucket. None mentioned, none forgotten.
If you own or are employed at a standard run-of-the-mill company, by all means don’t spend a lot of time and energy on finding a purpose that is going to be and feel forlorn anyway.
Focus on your core; profit and growth. And be totally fine with that.
If you are in a company which actually do have a purpose, do spend the time getting it right and use it to build your company culture, attract the right talent, delight customers etc.
You and your company will be all the better for it, I’m sure.
If it works.
And this brings me to the second problem with purpose; when things go south.
As big an enabler a clear and strong purpose can be, as big a bummer it can be, if you’re not aligned about it, and if people start breaking ranks focusing instead on other things.
Because just as a great purpose can unite, a forlorn purpose that is not truly shared can drive apart. And ultimate failure can follow.
That basically leaves you with the last reason why purpose can be a problem:
When things go south you can try to seek cloud cover behind your purpose; that at least you tried to make a dent in the universe or whatever lofty purpose you have formulated for yourself.
You use the purpose to convince yourself that everything has not been in vain. That there was a reason for everything, where in reality it is most likely BS.
So all in all: Think about whether purpose is something you should be spending time on. If you decide it is, make sure it’s for all the right reasons, and that you can justify doing so any day of the week to people who are sceptic about it.
That’s usually a pretty good test of the strength of your purpose anyway.
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[…] I wrote about the 3 problems of purpose. It is thus only fair that I also offer a few words on how a deep-felt purpose can serve as rocket […]