Purpose- Mountain climbing-fabrizio-conti (2)

Why it is more crucial than ever to understand the “Purpose imperative”?

Because it can help you make your Business become “Smart”. (Yes, the opposite of a “dumb” one).

Companies don’t exist in a vacuum: Business can only thrive if society Prospers, which in turn demands that Businesses develop approaches that support the fabric of life. 

Today’s most innovative leaders have understood that they need to bring meaningful contributions to the key issues all of us face instead of focusing inwardly on their Bottom line. 

They have understood the shift from Dumb Growth to Smart Growth.
The difference?

  •  “Dumb Growth” is productive but unsustainable, unfair, fragile, EGO-centric, driven by income and Value Capture,
  • Smart Growth” is innovative, sustainable, fair, resilient, ECO-system centric, driven by outcomes and Value Generation.

For Businesses to succeed, the Win-Win nature of Smart Growth should replace the Win-Lose nature of Dumb Growth.

From Shareholder Value to System Value

More than 10 years ago, you most probably heard about the emergence of the “Triple Bottom Line”: People (Social well-being), Planet (Environmental health), Profit (Economic results).
Already at that time, it was interesting to see that a company would no longer be allowed to make profit while destroying a social system – as one of the big French retailers did by trying to duplicate its supermarket model in India – or by destroying a living habitat – as Monsanto did several times.

But nowadays, we are a step further – or wiser. For a modern organization, being “smart” is also being meaningful, i.e. being aligned with the 4Ps Bottom Line”: People, Planet, Profit and Purpose (Meaning).
This is not about adding a “philosophical” statement – or slogan – to your Business. It is a deep commitment to place at the core of your Vision as a true orientation for Value Creation.
Even Forbes Magazine – which is not particularly left wing – talks about “the quadruple promise.” (2016)
Smart Businesses focus on System value. They say a big “YES” to Purposeful Innovation and Meaningful Value Creation which contributes to Society’s progress and positive impact on system issues. They commit to Innovation which truly makes a difference in people’s lives: more life-improving solutions.
As we said in a previous article, they moved from being the best in the world to being the best for the world

How? The Big “NO” to Business as Usual and the Big “YES” to meaningful Value Creation

Here is a great example. It is taken from our Book “Shapership. The Art of Shaping the Future”. In this book, we introduce a new concept: Shapership as the Art of shaping new Realities, opening up new paths to the Future and bringing significant and beneficial changes to Society. The word associates “Shaping” (as in “shaping a diamond”) and Leadership (meaning “leading an initiative”).

We have been looking at people who illustrate this concept. We call them Shapers: people who bring new Shapes to Society and create a durable impact.

Catia Bastioli, CEO of Novamont – an Italian company active in Bioplastics – is one of them. We call her a “Shaper of a new model of Sustainable Development integrated with the territory”

Her example illustrates the three fundamental elements that lie at the core of the Shapers Mindset: look at how she says a big “NO” to meaningless approaches, a Big “YES” to delivering outcomes and Value that matter and how she then acts.

1. Creative Resistance: the Big “NO”

Catia Bastioli faces an unacceptable situation: due to EU decisions, more than 800.000 hectares of agricultural land are left uncultivated in Italy. Farmers get compensation from the European Union not to exploit their land whereas, in theory, these hectares of land could be converted into maize and oleaginous plants cultures and produce approximately 2 million tons of Bioplastics

2. Transformative Vision: The Big “YES”.

Catia Bastioli has a clear Purpose. What she commits to is “development integrated with the Territory”.

“Today, even more so than in the past, we need a systematic view and a strategy which places Mankind and his Environment at the center rather than profit via the adoption of exceedingly high-quality standards and a system-based rather than a product-based rationale. The new approach must be informed by local circumstances and must involve all players. Intelligent researchers and entrepreneurs are also essential in the renewable raw materials sector, but without the active involvement of the entire local region and without rigorous system standards which are actively complied with, we run a very real risk of the sector being abused.”

3. Anticipative Experimentation. The Creative “HOW”

Beyond core Business, infinite resources for the development integrated to the territory
As an example, having noticed that acres of non-cultivated surfaces were invaded by thistle which is generally considered as a weed, here is what Novamont has initiated.
Rather than destroy Thistle, they created multiple cash flows:
1. A lubricant for precision mechanics with an oil present in the flower
2. A plastic with the fiber contained in the stem
3. A natural herbicide which, for your information, has been chosen in 2018 to replace Monsanto’s Round up in France
4. An enzyme for Pecorino cheese
5. Feed for stock at 250 €/ton versus 600 €/ton for Chinese soya
6. A elastomer in the roots which can be used for tires

The various elements of the plant that was traditionally destroyed now generate a variety of revenue flows amounting to a total of 4200 € per ton! It also generates jobs for hundreds of people.
That’s the type of “economies of scope” you can reach when you commit to the 4P Bottom line and challenge the Core Business Dogmas.

In short, to embody the major Shifts and possible directions for the Future, those who want to be smart can adopt the “Purpose imperative” and move

  • From focusing on income to focusing on outcomes
  • From Competing to sell more thermometers – focusing inwardly on their activities or products to Collaborating on reducing the temperature – fighting together for the right issues and deliver Shared Value
  • From Economies of Scale to Economies of Scope, creating new revenue flows for all
  • From a world of customers and suppliers to a world of connections, working with Partners and Customers in new ways: creating and sustaining Innovation and Industrial Networks that work, a point of such importance that we will dedicate a specific article to the subject

Smart Businesses adopt a holistic view in re-evaluating how they connect all activities and people in the quadruple promise of People, Planet, Profit and Purpose.
Purpose drives them to look beyond and across the entire Value Chain, leading transformations in the entire organization of discovering, prototyping, producing and giving access to goods and services that creates Transformational Value.

You may consider this article as an invitation to discover Shapership. 

For more on the concept of Shapership and on our book “Shapership. The Art of Shaping the Future”

Our article about Shapership published by our Partner Didier Marlier  : “Since 10 years, I write here about the future of Leadership, in the context of the Disruption Economy. And in ten years, I have never come across a text summarizing so well what Disruptive Leaders do and will do to stay afloat.

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