"To be or not to be that is the question..." What Prince Hamlet would have said if faced with the dilemma of choosing between impact or profit? Two sides, apparently conflicting, of the same coin. On one side the abundant, almost saturating, offer for courses and programs that promise to teach the secret to make more money, increase profit and grow sales. On the other side the increasing need for purposeful, meaningful work, where employees seek connections deeper than a transaction. Why this two concepts: impact and profit seem to conflict with one another? If we want a more inspiring, more impactful or purpose-driven business which is also profitable, what are we waiting for?
Even when it’s a matter of life or death, desire and motivation is not enough. Let’s face it. Change is scary. People stay in bad apartments and relationships far too long due to the fear of making a move. Beneath our desires lie competing commitments. These are commitments to profit, to growth, to expansion. This is an old story we keep telling ourselves to justify the choice of profit over impact. I no longer believe in businesses solely caring about making money. Over the last decades we've witnessed people demanding for meaningful jobs. They want work to be aligned with their personal values. In so many reports (Gallup, E&Y and more) we refer to the Millennial generation as the one wanting to work for companies that have a positive impact on the world and society. They believe that business can serve as an agent of positive change in the world. Is it only the Millennial generation wanting positive and impactful business or is there more of us wanting the same thing?
According to the Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, a world without poverty or environmental devastation does not have to be just a utopian dream. Like Yunus I believe that too. Creating a world where we do not sacrifice impact over profit is possible and it must be a collective effort. Positive and impactful businesses treat employees, consumers, the planet with dignity and respect. These businesses not only focus on how to cooperate to co-create financial value but also on how to embrace an approach that benefits well-being. If we're to solve the complex global problems we face, businesses must be on the forefront finding solutions, bringing people together to co-create value, and leading the way. Take 20 seconds and listen to why business needs to take a leading role in this (or read the full article here).
I encourage all of us to see the world not through the lens of profit, but through the lens of social impact. Let’s start by asking ourselves: ”What kind of world do I want to live in?" Consider for a moment that when we focus on impact we aren’t neglecting profit. Wanting to make or leave an impact equals to the pursuit of a purpose bigger than our personal or company’s interest for mere profit, mobilises people in a way that pursuing profits alone never will. For a company to thrive, it needs to infuse its purpose in all that it does. An organisation with purpose mobilises people and resources. Purpose is an unseen-yet-ever-present element, a strategic catalyser, a product differentiator, and a natural effortless attractor. Purpose, by definition, is an aspirational reason for being beyond profit. It is the North Star guiding business strategy and it is activated in all levels of the organisation as a result of it you make profits. Not the other way around.
Ask yourself: “What is a shared sense of higher purpose? What happens when there is no sense of higher purpose? How is a sense of higher purpose created?” Thinking through the barriers to creating a purpose-driven culture and ways to overcome them is necessary to make an impact while getting everyone in the game. Be curious, visualise a successful organisation that allows everyone to be aligned with their purpose. How it looks like? Feel free to sketch it out…For many of us, our best ideas came from a napkin sketch at the kitchen table or at a bar (as it happened with the sketch for this blog). Then be courageous and share it with someone else. That person’s perspective and questions are the fuel to improve clarity and meaning. Engage in a dialogue that goes beyond your napkin sketch, it might surprise you with an a-ha moment. As a leader, you can use this visualisation to free the figures (or your people) slumbering within your organisation, and drive innumerable a-ha moments.