Speaking about Evolutionary Purpose

By Dolly May and Edith Friesen for Enlivening Edge Magazine

Do you long to have conversations about your organization’s evolutionary purpose, but something always holds you back? If so, read on.

Put simply, an organization’s evolutionary purpose is its deeper calling. It’s about the way an organization adapts, grows, transforms, and serves a purpose beyond its stakeholders.

Communicating our organization’s deeper calling can feel challenging. First, most people confuse an organization’s vision, mission, or purpose statement with its evolutionary purpose.

Second, most people use one- or two-way communication styles. They don’t yet understand that the shared communication space may also have an evolutionary purpose. A deeper purpose that is unspoken and unwritten.

Such a shared communication space feels dynamic. It crackles with power and light. The conversation morphs in unexpected ways. It feels generative. Goodbye to small talk and personal agendas. Hello to what really matters.

The two of us co-authors have been exploring the shared communication space for a couple of years now. Here are five things we’ve discovered that might help you talk to people about your organization’s evolutionary purpose.

  1. Attuning to what really matters

What is your organization is serving and why?

Opening your awareness to this question lets you attune to what really matters. You hold the evolutionary purpose of your organisation closer, more intimately, and this helps you prioritise what to say.

How can you do that?

Attuning manifests differently for different people. Some people feel it as a strong physical sensation guiding them with a feeling of tension and release. For others it reverberates in the mind as thoughts, some more loud than others.

You can think of attuning as filtering out your own agenda, and becoming ego-free, so that your organization’s evolutionary purpose becomes the loudest voice. Let that voice permeate your core.

  1. Showing up first

Now that you’ve attuned, be bold. Step in and hold the space first. Small-talk can be awkward, but this isn’t small talk. You are bringing big-talk to the table. Evolutionary purpose is a slipstream for deeper ideas. Glide in by making the first move. This gives permission to others who are less confident, and it starts to create the shared speaking space.

Go first with what? At this point, you hold the space and lead with your presence. Because you hear and hold the evolutionary purpose in your core, you can enter the communication space confidently. Ready to invite others in. Ready to communicate presence to presence. So go first and hold the intention for a conversation that matters.

  1. Using invitational questions

You can ease your co-conversationalist’s entry into the communication space with an invitational question. Something that gets the juices flowing and allows you both to settle in at the evolutionary purpose table.  Something on the dancing edge, a little provocative perhaps. Something that invites curiosity. You are already attuned to what really matters, and your presence shines. Now you are asking if it matters to your co-conversationalist.

You might, for instance, ask this question: What is the deeper calling of our (or your) organization?

This question isn’t a test, and it doesn’t depend on knowing the definition of an evolutionary purpose. It’s a hand held out. It’s an invitation to lean in and explore what your organisation wants and needs from you both. It’s the difference between “What do you do?” and “What or who does your organisation serve, beyond its stakeholders?” This kind of question also moves you out of opinions and assumptions.

As soon as your co-conversationalist accepts your invitation, something begins to sparkle between you. Something beyond you, yet also shared by you, has a chance to emerge. The shared communication space is coming into being.

  1. Feeling into the shared communication space

Now that you’ve both turned up and the conversation is alive, it’s time to feel into the shared communication space. This is the birthplace of what wants to emerge. Called forward by your evolutionary purpose, you venture beyond the edge of what you usually say.

You let your curiosity lead you across the bridge from your own island into the shared space. You listen carefully to your instinct. You speak from your heart. You reflect on what your co-conversationalist is saying.

While the evolutionary purpose of your organisation has its own illuminating agenda, so does the communication space. And now you perceive a new presence, a bigger wholeness emerging. Word-by-exquisite-word a new story, or thought, or truth is forming, and together you and your co-conversationalist receive it. Neither of you could have come to this time and place on your own.

  1. Improvising with open awareness

You feel something bigger at work, so you open up your awareness fully to what wants to be discussed. All the while, you keep checking in with what matters to you, and leaning into what wants to emerge, even if it is uncomfortable and new.

Nothing holds you back. You feel free to go off script. Questions are thrown up like confetti. You and your co-conversationalist navigate the possibilities, hand-in-hand.

And why not? Next-stage organisations and the people in them are the flame-licking edge of how we can live and work as a species. The rules aren’t predetermined here.

As you improvise, you find yourself breaking your usual patterns, choosing new language, and perceiving beyond perspective. In this way you are speaking for the evolutionary purpose of your organization plus the shared communication space—on the edge of discovery—one feeling, word, thought, and perception at a time. Then, as an undivided whole.

Practicing the Evolutionary Purpose Conversation

If you are not quite ready to talk with your peers and colleagues about your organization’s evolutionary purpose, then why not practice with others who are already doing so? Enlivening Edge offers a stellar opportunity to develop your speaking in the context of like-minded friends and organizations on their own reinvention journey. We’d love to have you join EE’s videoconference Community Conversations.

Dolly May is an embodied speaking coach. She helps changemakers trapped in their heads embody what they need to say most. Her approach taps into the intelligence of the body, helping the speaker prioritize and animate the mind’s swirling thoughts.

She collaborates with positive-change organisations to shift the way we create, run, and deliver business. Dolly May lives and works in London UK. [email protected]



Edith Friesen is a writing coach, educator, and author of the forthcoming book, Writing with Your Inner Muse. She has written in numerous organizational contexts and led transformative writing workshops internationally.

Edith helps budding, stymied, and wounded writers connect with their creative source, embody their writing, and write with greater impact. She lives on Vancouver Island, Canada. [email protected]