I believe this discussion about entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership needs to start with a better understanding of purpose. The reason is
simple: today, innovation and purpose are two sides of the same coin.
Purpose can drive innovation; and innovation is more sustainable and successful when it’s driven by purpose.
I’ve experienced the power of purpose at least twice in my career so far in rather dramatic ways during wars and crises. I’ve seen first-hand how powerful a sense of purpose can be.
I became fascinated by this and began to look for other business situations — outside of crisis moments — where a powerful sense of purpose can make an enormous difference.
The start-up world for instance.
Startups have tons of passion.
Their sense of common purpose can be incredibly strong. They work longer hours, go through ups and downs, risk everything, pivot and keep moving forward no matter what.
Why is this so important to them?
Because their drive for purpose is actually about innovation. They put their passion into inventing a new market or changing the world.
Is it only startups that do this kind of purpose driven innovation? What about big companies?
Purpose and big, established companies
In the tech sector, purpose is a given.
Recently, Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO said, “When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind, I don’t consider the bloody ROI.”
How about traditional industries?
Let’s take the Food and Beverage sector.
The top companies like Danone, Pepsi, Unilever and Nestle have very strongly articulated purposes.
And that purpose and the focus of their innovation are aligned.
Pepsi, for example, have a set of Performance with Purposegoals, one of which is that at least two-thirds of the global beverage portfolio volume will have 100 calories or less from added sugars in each serving by 2025.
Purpose driving innovation.
Purpose in the business model
Many companies, both established and startups have put purpose in the middle of their business models.
Customers purchase energy tokens for daily, weekly or monthly top-up credits, either through scratch cards or mobile money. The ownership of these systems will be automatically unlocked and transferred to the customer after two years.
Every dollar invested in its systems in the field has brought four times return in terms of measurable environmental and social benefits.
· reduction in greenhouse gas emissions,
· a rise in household savings,
· improved respiratory and eye health, and
· fewer burns and fire incidents.
These companies, both startups and established businesses are deliberately leveraging purpose to galvanize their people, innovate, compete, succeed financially and change a corner of the world.
My former company is another example.
Philip Morris International is gradually moving from the cigarette space to novel nicotine delivery products that have the potential to reduce the harm caused by smoking and improve global health. Through this very mission, they are working to replace their legacy business with a new one.
I found that very inspiring and Philip Morris is not the only company on this journey.
According to General Motors the termination of internal combustion is close, the Coca Cola Company and the rest of the soft-drinks industry are voluntarily ceasing sales of drinks containing added sugars in secondary schools across the EU. Gucci is going fur-free in 2018, just to name a few examples.
That’s not just an idealistic approach to being in business, it’s also motivating employees and helping direct and drive innovation efforts.
Along these lines, what could you consider doing for Greece?
It’s simple. Start by identifying the top social problems and develop experiments to solve them
Some hypothetical examples:
That’s my view of innovation.
The best, most sustainable innovation is purpose driven.
I’m working on a book on that subject now, and I’d love to invite you to join me in helping to test and develop my theories through examples in your own companies.
Tooling to innovate, ecosystem
Purpose is a prerequisite but is purpose alone enough to boost innovation?
Of course not.
It takes efforts, people, structures, time and determination from the top.
In my previous company we started 5 years ago with open innovation platforms, ideation, internal competitions, coaches, mentors, champions, and structures to incorporate lean start-up principles in a huge almost 90K people global organization.
Easy? Not at all
Here are some of my learnings. Purpose-driven innovation:
1. Needs true commitment from the board and the top guy.
2. Takes time & pain. In my team where we trying to digitally transform customers and sales departments around the world, we spent 9 months experimenting on how to experiment. We changed our structure 3 times in 6 months. Eventually, people got used to the continuous change and it was okay.
3. Needs space to fail.
Failure is not in the genes of big companies. Start-ups use failure as an integral part of their business development process to properly prototype and improve
4. Requires changing the operation model. Budgets, allocations, revisions cannot be annual. Company performance cannot be judged from the capital markets based on their Quarterly results
5. Needs outsiders to get in. Pamper and protect them, otherwise the existing culture will kill them. Insiders that resist should leave immediately
6. Emphasizes user experience and design. User is king and the whole company should be structured around this.
CT March 2018