Thinking about purpose… I led an “away day” for the Board and Exec team at Coney, the theatre company I chair.
One session was about mission and purpose. You can see part of the word exercise we do on this above.
Arts organisations (or any organisations) should take time out to think about strategy and purpose. (If you ask nicely, and I have time, I could potentially even help lead that for you).
Three off-shoot thoughts on purpose.
Thinking too much about life purpose might not be effective. If you really know all you want to do is make games or treat breast cancer that might satisfy. But most of us lead plural lives. A diversity of goals and purposes might suit. Humans can have plural identities and plural purpose. It’s OK not knowing exactly what you want, and wanting multiple things. Long-term planning for individuals is hard - a lot happens in 5 years. It’s easier to target shorter horizons.
But, when you turn to the level of an organisation, I believe thinking on purpose can be helpful. Long-term planning is easier and be targeted.
Some public companies have taken this so far as to put purpose in its “articles of association” essentially in to its legal core being such that shareholders can vote for/against its purpose.
You can see this with Eisai, the Japanese company Ryo Yanagi is now CFO at. *
This aligns with a Purposeful Company idea about a “say on purpose” as a useful stewardship and governance idea.
Prof. Alex Edmans suggests in his recent Gresham lecture on how business can serve society that one effective way for it might be to set a purpose and try and deliver that as well as possible. He cites a telecoms company having more positive social impact by enabling payment transactions via mobile phones in African countries lacking infrastructure - ducking a purpose of connected communication rather than of “social impact”. ***
This brings me back to why thinking about purpose at an organisation level is useful. Once you set purpose, it’s easier for people to then figure out the “how” - the strategy and implementation and the supporting culture.
Organisation lacking a cohesive purpose tend to fall apart. A strong purpose supported by the right culture, strategy and then implementation, can achieve much.
Last thought: Consider how the purpose of Microsoft has evolved.
Current CEO Nadella: “Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”
Compare this to the original CEO Gates mission:
Put "a computer on every desk and in every home."
And then to Ballmer the CEO between Gates and Nadella.
"to create a family of devices and services for individuals and businesses that empower people around the globe at home, at work and on the go, for the activities they value most."
And consider how Microsoft has evolved during that time….
Hear about the chat with legendary agent, Mel Kenyon.
Some notes from listening to the literary manager of the Royal Court, Chris Campbell. (soon to be at Oberon Books)
Be inspired by Artistic Director, Kate Wasserberg’s Dauntless Theatre.
How to live a life, well lived. Thoughts from a dying man. On play and playing games.
A provoking read on how to raise a feminist child.
Some popular posts: the commencement address; by NassimTaleb (Black Swan author, risk management philosopher), Neil Gaiman on making wonderful, fabulous, brilliant mistakes; JK Rowling on the benefits of failure. Charlie Munger on always inverting; Sheryl Sandberg on grief, resilience and gratitude.
Buy my play, Yellow Gentlemen, (amazon link) - all profits to charity