Listening to Purpose

By Charlie Efford and originally published at

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You may have noticed that organisations are talking less about mission and vision these days and more about their ‘Purpose’. Simon Sinek captures this nicely when he explains the difference between ‘Why’ organisations exist and ‘What’ they do.

When a business investigates ‘Why’ it exists, it often leads the managers and staff towards understanding the contribution their organisation makes to the world. When done well, the outcome becomes incredibly meaningful.

Frederic Laloux, in his book, Re-inventing Organizations, takes this idea a stage further. He researched a wave of new ‘Teal’ organisations that operate very successfully and very differently from more conventional ones. Central to this new way of working is identifying the ‘Evolutionary Purpose’ of an organisation. Once known, it becomes the guiding force that aligns the workforce and informs decision-making. Understanding what it is and listening to it becomes vital in a Teal world.

We live in an energetic world where life vibrates and pulsates through everything.

To explain why ‘Purpose’ is so important, I need to step back and explore some more esoteric ideas about life.

We live in an energetic world where life vibrates and pulsates through everything. The idea that we have a mind, body, and soul is not new. It leads towards the concept of a higher and wiser ‘self’.  Beyond our ego’s voice is a higher level of consciousness that provides beneficial guidance and wisdom. Being able to access this counsel is one of the reasons people meditate.

Most people reach a stage in life where understanding their ‘Life Purpose’ becomes important. Tuning into it brings a sense of peace, fulfillment and meaning. Material success often becomes much less relevant to those with a sense of purpose. The desire to serve a higher ideal outweighs the survival instincts of the ego.

….why can’t an organisation have its own sense of purpose too?

It is not a big step to imagine that an organisation has its own higher level of consciousness. If Universal Life Force runs through everything then it flows through us and the organisations we create. We come into this world with a life purpose already in place, so why can’t an organisation have one too?

If  you have ever been to a big concert or game you will probably have been aware of the atmosphere. Although a collective product of the crowd, it also seems to have an independent existence .

Think about the world’s major religions, The United Nations, The Red Cross, Alcoholics Anonymous etc. These organisations now have an energy that goes beyond those who created them.

…organisations only come into existence because the people who create or join them have agreed at a higher level of consciousness to serve its higher purpose.

I suggest that organisations only come into existence because the people who create or join them have agreed to serve its higher purpose. They meld their energies to create an organisation consciousness. It is both dependent on and independent of those that gave it existence. It is an intricate collaboration between the organisation and the people who work in it. The purpose will evolve as situations change and new people bring fresh energy.

Every organisation (big or small) has its own contribution to make. This could range from making a product that improves people’s lives to providing meaningful employment in a local area. Interestingly, an organisation’s purpose is rarely about becoming the biggest or the best (although this may happen as a result).

We need the organisation to help fulfill our sense of purpose, and it needs us to deliver on the purpose that collectively, we have agreed to serve.

In this model, tuning into your own sense of purpose, whether you are CEO or shop floor worker, only provides part of the picture. Allowing corporate direction to be developed by a few senior people is almost invariably limiting. The only way to serve the organisation effectively is to listen to what it needs and desires. Doing this gives us a collective view on what we have agreed to do. We need the organisation to help fulfil our sense of purpose, and it needs us to deliver on the purpose that collectively we have agreed to serve.

You may think that an organisation having its own independent consciousness with a corresponding sense of purpose is just plain nonsense. However, if you are curious about the idea of purpose and perhaps exploring the ‘Teal’ world of Re-inventing Organisations, then I hope I have offered a few thoughts that help.

Republished with permission of the author.

Featured Image/graphic link added by Enlivening Edge Magazine.

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