Finding Purpose

Everyone and Nobody

I would guess that if your organization is trying to survive by pleasing everyone then you are competing on price or a commodity based metric.  You are the buffet.  You try to meet everyone’s needs but once your patrons are satisfied the enterprise is forgettable.  I can think of a few buffets that were memorable in my dining experience but usually for the people watching.

The most remarkable restaurants are not afraid to be labeled as unique or remarkable.  Their cuisine may be a fusion of different cultures but they are known for being precise.  Their purpose helps set the menu, the decor, the ambiance.  I once dined at Lasserre in Paris.  An amazing restaurant that was themed after the experience of dining on a luxury cruise ship.  The ceiling would retract during the evening to reveal the night sky and stars as if one were at sea.  Small stools (at footstool height) were placed next to each woman’s seat so she could place her expensive handbag in view of other patrons.  If you needed to use the facilities you were escorted to an elevator, taken to the first floor and then placed in the care of restroom attendant.  There was no thought of pointing you in the general direction of the water closet.  Flower arrangements were stunning with orchids that overwhelmed the senses.  This was perhaps my most memorable evening in Paris and I have not even written about the food.  One had to seek out Lasserre and it was magnificent because it was unique.

Who are you serving?

Who to Invite?

I have heard lots of invitations from speakers at the World Economic Forum to ‘join their cause.’  This feels remote and challenging.  I am not all that motivated to join based on just the facts they are reciting.  If I understood what these causes believe and I shared their belief then the causes and I are joining efforts.  It is now a shared experience.  The relationship is established on a totally different paradigm.  I do not have to do all the work.  It is a joint responsibility to engage our respective talents to benefit those who share our belief.

Are you just handing out lots of invitations to people to join your cause or are you encourage those that share your beliefs to partner?  

Putting the Band Together

If you were asked to put together a garage band- simply to hold jam sessions, who would you invite?  If you were asked to assemble a group to play at a sold-out stadium would you change who you include in the band?

Do you find it interesting that some of the legendary musical groups split-up for no apparent reason?  Perhaps money, women/men, fame, travel becomes the distraction.  Then some acts book a reunion tour.  Do you think it is for the fame and money or have they reconnected to their purpose?

I would suggest that if you assemble a garage band because you have a shared purpose- a love of music, a message to send, a common platform, or any other number of reasons, the purpose should carry you forward.  If you never play a cord for a person outside of the garage or if you are making a living from iTunes payments the purpose does not change, however the results certainly look different.  

When we began planning based on the results we risk losing a direct connection to our purpose.  The results start to control us.  One of the great attributes of the human existence is that we recalibrate quickly to a new reality.  We can jump from poverty to lottery winner.  It take little time for a person to consider their new wealth the benchmark from which they exist.

Why do you want to play music (or whatever activity inspires you)?  Who shares your vision?  Write it down.  Invite those specific individuals who ‘get it’.  Exclude those who do not get it- there are plenty of garages for other bands.  Be certain.  It will amplify your experience, no matter what stage you play on.

Can we be more like you and different as the same time?

Political parties provide interesting divisions and equally eye-raising alliances.  I appreciate the following graphic as a representation of the corporate brands which binds and separates Democrats and Republicans.  One could make a case that there is unity and separation in the political brand report published by Good.

I propose that we often find ourselves searching for similarities and differences when reviewing data in the social sector.  We are similar to one enterprise when it is convenient or required but then the data can be re-arrange to show our organization’s competitive advantage and how we are uniquely positioned to succeed.  Our donors, customers, volunteers and communities are sophisticated enough to see the wizard behind the curtain madly moving dials.  Transparency is an easier narrative upon which to build clarity about organizational purpose than the earthquake prone zone of smoke and mirrors.