Singularity University has been talking about purpose for some time now. They describe a focus that is audaciously big and aspirational, causing significant transformation to an Industry, community, or the planet. There is a clear “why” behind the work being done, something that unites and inspires action. They call this a Massive Transformative Purpose.
A focus on purpose has a motivating effect with the potential to trigger incredible outcomes. A proven approach in high-growth organizations according to Singularity University, with a focus on purpose in common across the 100 fastest growing organizations. In an era that challenges much of our belief system, an aspirational quality of purpose is a mechanism that helps us think differently. Shared passion within communities and shifting generational views of mission-driven work can fuel the fires of purpose. An organizational focus on purpose is a vehicle for attracting and retaining top qualified talent. A purpose that is aspirational and focused on creating a different future is what ignites passion in individuals and groups; it’s what engages people’s hearts and minds to work together to realize their goal. Breakthroughs in science and technology can be linked to the deeply unifying and motivating ability of purpose. Setting out to solve big problems brings purpose and meaning to work. The more we organize around purpose, the better the outcomes and the more fulfilled we will be with our work.
I referenced a shift to purpose and well-being in my post on 2017 Predictions. This growing shift exploits our advances in science and technology to improve the human condition. Whether it is achieving standard of living parity in developing economies, or advances in the current standard of living of developed nations, this shift in focus will gain more traction in the coming years, penetrating the mission statements of many organizations. I explore this phenomenon in detail in a recent post titled Revolution and the Innovation Wheel. History tells us that we experienced great improvements in well-being within developed countries during a special century between 1870 and 1970 – but there has been little change since. Four massive dots connect to change this:
- An emerging era of innovation that harnesses advances in science and technology
- The aforementioned purpose-orientation permeates society
- Friction is removed from our life experiences – one experience at a time
- The emergence of a platform economy
Taken together, these shifts work to elevate our well-being. Whether it’s the simple task of hailing a cab or the complicated task of improving medical outcomes, innovators will remove friction from one experience after another, initially via platforms and ultimately through a finite set of ecosystems. These ecosystems emerge from the consolidation of redundant platform-specific ecosystems at some point in the future. Much as the innovation cycle of the special century led to our current Industry constructs, this innovation cycle with its purpose-orientation will drive The Evolution Towards Ecosystems.
How might this innovation cycle improve our well-being and elevate the global standard of living? The revolution post referenced above introduced an innovation wheel that maps our current and projected advances in science and technology – along with multiple emerging scenarios – to the areas of well-being impacted. The matrix below takes a different cut at this mapping. This is not an exhaustive list, but a dialog starter that begins to counter the argument positioned by Robert J. Gordon in his book The Rise and Fall of American Growth. In his focus on the revolutionary century, he describes how it was made possible by a unique clustering of great inventions. The author concludes that the 1870-1970 century was unique in that many of the great inventions could only happen once. Mr. Gordon states that by 1970 the basic elements of our modern standard of living were already achieved along the dimensions identified in the matrix below. His forecast for the next 25 years sees limited growth, as several headwinds reduce growth in median real disposable income. In making a compelling argument, Mr. Gordon dismisses the views of the many techno-optimists that see a return to productivity and enhanced well-being, as automation drives labor productivity and scarcity gives way to abundance.
The potential for another clustering of great inventions exists, and a focus on purpose and well-being might just get us there. Here is a spreadsheet version of this matrix focused on The Move Towards Purpose. Help me crowd-source a comprehensive view.