By Bruce Grover, Founder & Chief Strategist
In this series of articles, our founder explores the key principles that inspire our work translating purpose and vision into causes and change.
I lived in India for most of my childhood. My parents worked at an international Baháʼí school perched on top of a mountain five hours from Mumbai. The diversity of the New Era School community was every bit as breathtaking as the views of the jungle-clad peaks across the valley. Students and educators came from 40 countries, a dozen faiths, and every background imaginable, from Saudi princesses to local children on full scholarships. Yet, we were united by our school's mission: For the betterment of the world.
One morning, a visiting dignitary spoke at our school assembly. His voice still rings in my memory: “You can help others with what you do, but you can change the world with why and how you do it.” He explained that if we looked past our studies and community projects to seek our purpose and the meaning of connection, we would find the roots of inspiration, motivation and transformation.
Today, we identify this centering of purpose as our 2nd guiding principle.
Too often we see science organizations, nonprofits, government, and businesses leading with programs, services and products. We have learned that it is vision and purpose that touches hearts, sparks fresh thinking and inspires action. When a brand is rooted in purpose and passion, we see audiences respond, rallying to a cause and evolving into tenacious advocates.
This work beings with the Unity Principle and becomes increasingly clear through four simple discussions we have with our clients:
What do you do?
Why does this matter?
How does it work?
What do the people you seek to engage need, do and believe?
This last question, of course, begs additional conversations with the people we seek to engage — and seems to invariably draw us back to a simple conclusion: It is not products and transactions that drive people, it’s meaning, wellbeing and joy.
As we bring purpose to the center of a brand and its offerings, we invite people to not just engage but to join us in shaping a shared and sustainable future. The story becomes compelling. Teams have the language and perspective to rally people to a vision of change that is actionable and free of the hyperbole that can plague marketing and communications.
Don’t believe this is possible? Not only has a cottage industry grown up around the power of “why,” but ethical, responsible, more mature perspectives are moving into the mainstream. There are numerous examples of nonprofits doing this well, but consider this example from the bottom-line driven business community: In 2019, the influential Business Roundtable redefined the purpose of a corporation from delivering value to shareholders to delivering value to customers, supporting communities, and protecting the environment. This is a dramatic shift with even more dramatic impact. Collectively, Business Roundtable CEOs lead companies that support 37 million American jobs, generate $10 trillion in sales, and account for 24% of the U.S. GDP.
Living and working with purpose is both practical and transformational. Together, we can ask why your what matters — to you, to your audiences, to communities, and to the world. What are the principles at play? Do your offerings relate to real-world needs? Do they acknowledge the inherent nobility of each person? Are we operating in a learning mode that welcomes all to contribute? How can a spirit of generosity, inclusion and belonging infuse our partnerships and advance the field rather than just our own growth and prestige?
The output of this work is often a new brand architecture and strategic communications plan infused with purpose and pragmatism. Equipped with a rallying cry, revitalized written and visual identity, and reimagined communication programs, organizations can reposition themselves as more than what they do. As the speaker at my school’s morning assembly said all those years ago, “You can help others with what you do, but you can change the world with why and how you do it.”
With our purpose at the heart of all we do, it’s time to rally people to action. We’ll explore that next time with the Gravity Principle.
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