In this special episode we get a unique perspective on purpose at the corporate level from Canadian author, business consultant, and former chief learning officer, Dan Pontefract, who has been on a deep dive since 2014 into the interlinking — as he sees it — of purpose and the very way we think. Chris, Dani, and Stacia then summarize some of the main things we’ve learned in this and the previous four ‘Is Purpose Working?’ episodes, and reflect on some recent news and potentially critical audits of purpose, one year on from that famous Business Roundtable statement.
Purpose needs to be more than ‘values on the wall’
Dan’s personal purpose journey has gone from working for a major telecommunications company to writing four best-selling books. What’s driven him: an epiphany that there’s a link between personal, role, and organizational purpose — but that purpose has to be a working, operating behavioral guide or it won’t become truly organic.
Dan tells us a very personal story about why he left an amazing job, which he links to Tim Bray’s very public resignation from Amazon: a useful reminder that purpose has a very individual aspect that our talk about organizations can sometimes miss.
The COVID factor
Both Dan and RedThread say purpose is much more a realistic business deliverable post-COVID than it was before. Dan explains how he can show CEOs why there is a direct link between EBITDA and purpose, for example, while Dani and Stacia point to the uptake in much more ‘human’ conversations between the C-Suite and teams.
Finally, there’s some useful reflection on some of the key themes that are surfacing from the debates with our podcast guests so far. What we think we’re hearing: that purpose is a word we’re seeing more and more in American society, and, for sure, we have to be a little suspicious that it’s a fashion trend — however, there’s also evidence that it is a solid concept now. There are, however, some methodological flaws in recent purpose enhancements, like those of The World Economic Forum and the Roundtable itself. Bottom line: yes, there’s froth, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real — and L&D has a positive role to play in embedding purpose in organizations.
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