Purpose//

The Great Search for the Corporate Soul

Valerie Keller on the meaning of Purpose in today's world.

The global business environment is under dramatic disruption. Today more than ever, companies are searching for a new genetic code that will help them continuously evolve—to survive and to thrive. This new normal has inspired a great searching of the corporate soul. And it has firmly established a new idea — and new ideal — of the successful 21st century business.

I have seen through research and work with top CEOs that there is a new leading edge: Companies able to harness the power of purpose to drive performance and profitability enjoy a distinct competitive advantage.

In other words, meaning matters. And not just in an abstract sense, but in terms of today’s business metrics. Companies who clearly articulate their purpose enjoy higher growth rates and higher levels of success in transformation and innovation initiatives. 

Why? Purposeful, human-centric organizations are playing a bigger game. They stand out by standing for something greater than themselves; transcending paradoxes of shareholder v. stakeholder, efficiency v. experiences, profits v. purpose.

Today’s leading companies also know that focusing on the well-being of their employees is a key part of the purpose of a 21st century business. The technological transformation – that ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ articulated by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum — has put a new focus on humans. As Andrew McAfee vividly illustrates in Machine, Platform, Crowd, the interface between machines and humans – the future of work – is dramatically uncertain and radically transformational. Initiatives like the B Team’s 100% Human at Work  are defining the elements that make organizations human, convening companies and advancing research defining the innovative steps to transform work and the workplace.

As we look ahead to humanity’s next chapter, we know that purpose is key to success at every level of an organization…from entry-level positions and middle management to the C-suite and the board…and from Mumbai to Miami to Marrakech.

In this era in which the companies that thrive are, for the most part, those adept at relentless, ongoing transformation, having a strong sense of shared purpose turns out to be a key comparative advantage. Research consistently shows that people who feel they have purpose at work are 1.4 times more engaged, 1.7 times more satisfied and three times more likely to stay at that organization.

I am delighted to team up with Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global, a leader in health and well-being, in launching a new section focused on what purpose means in today’s world. We invite you to join us in this conversation by sharing stories on how you live and thrive with purpose. Be part of the movement of those on the leading edge of transforming the working world.

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