Alice asked the Cheshire Cat,
who was sitting in a tree,
“What road do I take?”
The cat asked,
“Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat,
“it really doesn’t matter, does it?”

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The purpose is change

Whiplash Team, June 19th, 2020

The purpose is change

We are at a turning point. With one foot in “the new normal” and the other still remembering the lockdown and the consequences of the virus worldwide. For organizations, it is time to start sow the seeds for that invisible change necessary to meet the transparency and responsibility that society demands. It is time to put aside postures and reflect on how to be profitable and, at the same time, responsible with our community, our environment, and the society. How we shift the system we have towards the system we want.

We have not yet landed on “the day after”, nor have we yet suffered the onslaught of what is predicted to be the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression caused by the 1929 Crack. Many companies are struggling to stay afloat while the whole world is screaming “I can’t breathe.” Large corporations and small businesses endorse the words of George Floyd. They echo the demands against racism and police brutality, just causes, by the way. They endorse the message. They embrace it as their own. They incorporate it as part of their purpose … along with more and more causes that are all mixed up to such an extent that, in the end, the purpose is blurred, warped, misled. Or, simply, it is contaminated, opportunistically supporting one or other movements or being carried away by the waves of outrage that from time to time shake the foundations of society like a tsunami.

For more than a decade now, brands have clung to purpose like grasping at straws. To make it tangible, real, they have sided themselves with different causes, from #MeToo to climate change, up to responsible consumption, sustainability and equality of gender, race and religious beliefs, regardless of the fact that, in some cases , this positioning has had a financial cost.

All done to avoid falling into the dreaded bag of irrelevance, where the latest Meaningful Brands study, by Havas Group, places 77% of the brands. But the purpose is not and cannot be a posture. It is the engine of the brand and its strategy. A motor for the necessary change to truly maintain relevance in a world that demands commitment, but above all transparency and responsibility.

Without a doubt, the purpose has always been part of the brands. Or at least most companies have been born with a raison d’être, in addition to the obvious one of being profitable. The purpose is what drives the entrepreneur, the founder of a business organization, to invest time, money and health in a project that, in many cases, will take away his/her sleep or bring him/her to the brink of ruin. It is this transcendent that will drive him/her to take the company upwards and build the brand a name that evokes a symbolic ecosystem in the user’s mind every time they interact.

Over time and with the various theories of business management, the purpose has changed its name until, more or less a decade ago, it became a kind of corporate Holy Grail. Rivers of ink have been written about purpose, about its benefits, about why it matters.

Actually, we can call it whatever we want: purpose, raison d’être DNA, soul. In short, it is something that transcends time, that does not vary with the strategic objectives of a five-year plan, or for a decade or a century and, ultimately, it nurtures and gives life to the brand beyond time and C-Suites.

The real reflection arises around how it is transferred to daily operations. In the post pandemic world, where the weaknesses of our system and economic models have been exposed, it is the companies duty to start a debate on how to incorporate criterion for responsibilities in the supply chains, in the selection of personnel, in the manufacturing, creation, research and development processes. How we build together economic and business models which are sustainable and yet responsible with the planet and caring for society.

It is here that is not only important, but essential a sense of direction in the management of this invisible, however not imperceptible change. We are talking about a cultural transformation in the organization, both inwards, with its employees, and outwards, in its relationship with suppliers.

In the case of employees, and to empower the transition to digital for example, by promoting the incorporation of Open Source practices, where knowledge is shared, as opposed to the old cultures of silos. Or introducing an innovative reflection on work and productivity, where solutions such as four-day weeks, unregulated vacation days or incorporating teleworking as a regular practice.

As for suppliers, verifying the traceability of the components used, demanding certifications and good practices at each step of the production process.

Because the purpose is useless if it is not reflected in a positive and relevant change, both for the user and for those who are part of the organization, or if it is not managed to create a positive reaction in the lives of people, in communities or the society. It is not about taking action and forgetting about economic profits, because one of the reasons for companies to exist is to make profits. Only in this way will they be able to carry out their work within society, creating jobs, compensating their employees fairly, growing and innovating to create value for all their stakeholders and, ultimately, outlining a new model of capitalism.

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