To some of you the number 42 will mean something: 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything 🙂
What we learn from this story is that one cannot think enough about meaning and purpose. People go through different phases in their lives in which they ask themselves the question of purpose. Sometimes that leads to them changing their entire lives.
Companies also have a purpose, a reason that they want to fulfil. This too should live up to all scrutiny, or actually be questioned more often. If the purpose is defined too narrowly, it may be too short-lived. We all know stories of companies whose core business has changed completely. Some have completely disappeared because of such a disruption, while others have reoriented themselves and still continue to exist.
Do you remember the slogan “connecting people”? The association with a rather hapless mobile phone company from Finland will become immediately apparent to many. But maybe the motto has actually always been the guiding light that Nokia has followed? The company initially produced paper – and letters connect people. Then it generated electricity. You generally welcome friends with warmth and light. Bicycle tires were then also produced, which are also a product to get to friends. The production of radios led to mobile telephones. All of these are opportunities for people to connect with each other.
In today’s world, the younger generations in particular are asking about purpose and meaning much more often and louder than a few years ago. Elements such as sustainability and social responsibility are demanded. What role does a company want to play in the world? In the past, the answer was rather simple: you wanted to create jobs, produce products and do business. Today, the aim is to improve the world in the process. If the general opinion is that this is not successful, the company will face a very cold headwind. Entire industries that were previously admired can today see themselves confronted with unabated “shit-storms”.
The younger generations support us all in finding out whether the sense and purpose that are heralded in a company actually live up to their claims. Questioning is important – as well as the willingness to accept honest but perhaps unpleasant answers. This is where SMEs are often more honest and successful than the big players.
What is the purpose of your company? Can it withstand all the storms and challenges of our VUCA world? (You might also like to read my Blog on VUCA of last month) I would be happy to accompany you on your voyage of discovery!