Purpose Washing.....is it a thing?

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As Hatched hits the 18 month mark it has got us thinking.  Something keeps popping into our thought bubble.   Something is starting to unfold.  Something is up with purpose.  

Just like green washing was a thing, is purpose washing about to be a thing?    Are companies going to be, or are already, spending more time talking about their purpose as opposed to living their purpose?

Recent interactions with our amazing clients have this thought continually popping up:

·      Some of our clients are seeking to find another word for purpose, something different, even asking what happens beyond purpose?  

·      There is a bit of a joke i.e. not another one, going around the US at the moment for the 1-for-1 models i.e. you know the buy one of our products, we’ll give one to a person in need.  A wave of new start-ups are pushing this as a marketing exercise instead of leading with an exceptional product/service and it being a heartfelt added bonus.

·      Then the tricky one, some of our clients have undertaken purpose work prior to calling in Hatched.  What we are finding is purpose and impact are constantly getting confused as branding and another communication tool, as opposed to organisation design or redesign.

It is really exciting to see many companies are starting out on the purpose pathway.  Purpose-led companies should not be an exclusive thing, it something open to all businesses and is becoming a prerequisite for doing business.

Going on the purpose journey is actually really hard work.   It’s also the most exhilarating and rewarding thing you can do for yourself and your business.   It’s not something you can fake or only put one a toe in.

It takes a powerful yet vulnerable leadership, and collective self-awareness.  You need to uncover everything about yourself and discover the best form of yourself.  You need creativity, courage, willingness to commit, hard conversations and a little bit of magic.  

Defining your purpose and impact model is a human process.  There are isn’t a playbook.  If someone tries to sell you one, then walk away.  It’s about creating the right conditions for purpose to emerge through empathy, collaboration and connection.

So with this in mind here are seven tips for those on the purpose journey:

1.      Authentic: everything you do needs to be you. You must walk the talk all way through your business.   Once your purpose is defined, call out what doesn’t align and address it.  Include all your staff.  Trust me, these hard conversations are powerful and transformative.   Customers can sniff an inauthentic company a mile away.

2.     Integrate:  sounds boring yet this is where the power of purpose lies.   Companies get pretty excited about defining the why of their business and quite rightly so!  However, doing the work doesn’t stop here.   You actually need to integrate everything around your why, which creates the purpose.  This includes integrating the way you work, the meaningful experience your customers have, your core values and impact you have, including any impact initiatives. 

3.     Outcomes:  all of this work needs to actually deliver something.  A lot of people forget this bit.  Purpose work is practical work.  It needs to deliver outcomes, it needs to further your business objectives i.e. make you money, and it needs to elevate the impact you choose to have.

4.    Embed: one of Hatched’s two principles for implementation.  To be authentic you need to embed purpose into the everyday. It almost needs to become unremarkable, invisible, something that just is, everyone knows it and does it.   When customers interact with it they feel it.  This is what creates great companies.   Every stream of work you do needs to have purpose at the core.

5.     Connect:  the second of Hatched’s principles. Purpose doesn’t work unless every single one of your staff understand it and their own purpose is connected to it.  Involve your staff in the process of forming your purpose and following its creation, ensure everyone goes on their own personal journey to find this connection.  Support them through conversations and developmental experiences.

6.    Conflict: should be embraced.  Don’t shy away from the hard conversations, the opinion of others that do not align or the big decisions.   Ask the hard questions and repeat left field comments to find the meaning in it.   There will inevitably something that needs to be addressed, make it everyone’s responsibility, call it out and act on it.  Conflict enables creativity and clarity.

7.     Humble:  tell your story your way.  Make sure you actually tell your story (many of my clients are so humble they prefer not to).  People want to know what goes on behind the scenes.  Create a storytelling approach that is a natural extension of your purpose and personality, and you’ll see a huge impact.

Hatched is looking forward to the next 18 months to continue to partner with its clients rewrite the rule of business and grow their impact.   On this note, there is another tip which is critical.  Find someone who can guide you through this process.  It is intimate work, so find someone you trust and knows their stuff.

All the best for your purpose journey.

Hatched xxx


Oh so for those still contemplating the question, what is beyond purpose?   I’ll leave the detail for another post but the next evolutionary step for business is likely to be contentment and meaning.  We might need to redesign our whole economy to make this possible but it is exciting!