Exploring the power of purpose and the importance of story, and how to bring these two together to make a difference.

1. What is purpose?

“Purpose can be found when we’re moving toward something we care about that is bigger than we are. It could be a near- or long-term goal we’re working towards, along with the intrinsic or extrinsic motivation to get there.” – Rebecca Fraser-Thill, instructor of psychology at Bates College.

Ask yourself: Do people care about your purpose?

2. There’s a big difference between linear versus transformation purpose.

Linear purpose expresses what an organisation aspires to be and do: it is simple and goal or product driven. For instance, a watch-making company might say: ‘We help people be on time’.

Transformative purpose is deeper and draws on why your company exists: it becomes an expression of how an organisation intends to evolve and transform. The same watch-making company might say: ‘We help people achieve a more balanced life, integrating different needs more cohesively and harmoniously’

Ask yourself: Is your purpose transformative?

3. The power of purpose.

A strong purpose can grow revenue four times faster, create seven times more jobs, and increase stock prices 12 times faster. (Type A communications)

In his 2019 annual letter to investors, Larry Fink, CEO, BlackRock, wrote: “Purpose is not a mere tagline or marketing campaign; it is a company’s fundamental reason for being – what it does every day to create value for its stakeholders. Purpose is not the sole pursuit of profits but the animating force for achieving them.”

Ask yourself: What business impact is your purpose driving?

4. Purpose needs story.

Employees who know and understand their company’s purpose are 50+ times more likely to be fully engaged than those who don’t. (Modern Survey)

The behaviours of highly engaged business units result in 21% greater profitability. (Gallup)

Ask yourself: Do people know what your company purpose is?

5. Story is essential to engaging people in your purpose.

Stories are 22x more impactful than any other form of communication. This is because science plays a role in how our brains experience story. It makes us more empathetic and focused on the topic at hand.

Ask yourself: How do you use story to engage your audience?

6. “Show, don’t tell” your purpose

In fiction and drama, our heroes do not tell us what their deeper purpose is, they show it in the way they react to situations and the choices they make. It’s the same for business.

For example, in a crowded market, CVS decided to put purpose ahead of profit by removing cigarettes from their retail outlets. This aligned with their purpose of “Helping people on their path to better health”. Instead of losing revenue, they found that 5x as many consumers said they were more likely to shop the brand (25%) than not (5%).

Ask yourself: How do you show your purpose?

7. Shaping your purpose and story.

To rediscover your authentic purpose, start by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. How do we make an impact on the lives of our customers?
  2. What makes us different?
  3. What are we great at?
  4. What do we love doing?

8. Telling your story: character

One of the most important components of good storytelling is: Character (driven by purpose).

A strong character that people care about: this is how people experience your brand. It’s about the language and tone you use in your communications, which should help crystallise your purpose.

Ask yourself: Do we have a good sense of character?

9. Telling your story: journey

The most important components of good storytelling are: Journey (riddled with tension)

A tension-filled journey talks about why your purpose is important and how you’re going to get there. It’s not going to be easy, but it’ll be worth it.

Ask yourself: Do we have a sense of how our journey unfolds over time? Is it compelling?

10. How it works in practice

  1. Define your purpose
  2. Shape your story using character and journey
  3. Create a plan that maps out your story over time
  4. Drive your story with dedication
  5. Measure your success

Ask yourself: What do you need to do to make this happen?