Can Companies be purpose driven?

Short answer: No.

There’s this believe that a company can have vision, feel compassion, has a transcendent purpose of some sort. This is nothing more than a believe (and a very harmful one as well). Companies are structures that are very efficient at grouping people to work on a specific topic. When a company is a pioneer in its market, it’s the people working there doing pioneer-work. When a company has a strong CSR-policy, it’s because someone implemented it there (and others are executing it in a consistent way).

Apple is not innovative

Apple, for instance, is widely seen as an innovative company. This is not true. Apple had a very inspiring, motivating and innovative leader, Steve Jobs. With Steve Jobs gone, the company lost a lot of credibility. The same goes for being purpose-driven. A company can never be purpose-driven in itself. Being purpose-driven means working for something way beyond company borders. A purpose-driven person can use companies as a tool to gain impact.

The power of companies

The fact that organizations can never be purpose-driven, doesn’t mean they can’t have an impact. Every organization is a structure in which people chose to work. The work you allow people to do, the passions they can put in their work, that’s something that can be facilitated by a company structure.

Don’t try to be a visionary, purpose-driven or innovative company, hire visionaries, purpose-driven or innovative people. Build a structure to support them. Take away the barriers holding these people to be the best they can be, and the group of people called your company, will excel at what they do.


About leyssensjan

Jan Leyssens is a designer and entrepreneur who strongly believes you can’t turn sustainability into a positive story if your main focus is on negative impact. When designing, he is always looking for the overlap between activism and entrepreneurship, technology and community. His main expertise lies in strategic business model development, Circular Economy, the makermovement, and social innovation. With a background in Industrial Design, Jan quickly shifted his focus towards business design and using the design process in strategic management. Jan is the father of two kids and founder & CEO of Regenerative Design, co-founder of Full Circle, ImpactBoost, and the Circular Design map, podcaster, storyteller, and changemaker.

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