Reimagining the Context of Work: The Purpose of Transformation

By Whitney Vosburgh + Charlie Grantham

The Metamorphsis of Work

This fifth blog is a summary of blogs: #1 Need for New Story of Purpose, #2 Purpose: Leadership, #3 Place: Linkage, and #4 Practice: Leverage. And as a way to pull all this together with a clear view of the path forward, we have some thoughts on those perennially popular corporate topics: Collaboration, Innovation and Transformation.

The Old Story of Profit First is dying, and there is nothing to replace it. What we desperately need and yearn for is a New Story of Purpose First to take the place of the burnt out husk of the old. And then to bring that story to life and to put it to work for all stakeholders, not just shareholders. Companies must become prophets of the new, so they can continue to earn new profits. In order for companies to accumulate wealth, they must not only share the wealth but also ultimately recognize the role of all parties in the co-creation of that wealth.

Transformation Nation

The old world of work is dead. It used to be the World of WORK and the World of life. For many there is less work or no work. For them, increasingly there is the World of work and the World of LIFE, or only the World of LIFE. There is no such thing as a Work Life Balance… notice that Work came first. That myth was part of the Old Story. For many and ever more, Life comes first, and for others there is only Life, why it is so important to get and have a life beyond work. Sadly, so many people have neither work nor a life, which is made dramatically evident by the rapid rise in our suicide rates and lack of civic engagement across almost all demographics — the United States of Alienation.

Sadly, so many people have neither work nor a life, which is made dramatically evident by the rapid rise in our suicide rates and lack of civic engagement across almost all demographics — the United States of Alienation.

Commonwealth

People do not truly collaborate unless they can corroborate that their best interests have been fully embraced, and that is called Shared Purpose. Innovation, let alone transformation, does not happen in a vacuum — it is part of an ongoing cycle and interconnected chain of simultaneous events, factors and influences such as shared purpose, vision, leadership, inspiration, imagination and invention; all that which leads to “shared value creation”(see Clay Christiansen, Harvard Business Review).

What combines shared purpose and co-creation of a future desired state is called community, and from both the corporate and stakeholder points of view the ultimate fruit of these unions is called commonwealth, wealth for all, not just the 1%. Ultimately, within the corporation that is called culture, and without it is called brand — all that you do and don’t do relative to others in the minds, hearts and wallets of your brand community of stakeholders and beyond in a never ending ripple effect.

You cannot tell a good story unless you have a good story. A good story is both simultaneously personal and universal. There is no point in creating a New Story unless it has value for all concerned and affected. It cannot have value unless it is built on shared values.

Purpose-Profit Connection

So what’s the point of all this? In the New Story (and World of Work), there is a direct connection between Purpose and Profit. All healthy businesses are founded with a core purpose and values, as well as a vision, mission and value proposition. Purpose has to come before profit, not only at the inception of a business, but all through the business life cycle. Increasingly the more stakeholders have a(n ever renewing) brand new sense of positive purpose and value, the more profitable and sustainable a business will be. The new Emperor’s clothing, customer experience and content, is made from these threads.

Increasingly the more stakeholders have a(n ever renewing) brand new sense of positive purpose and value, the more profitable and sustainable a business will be.

Transformation is not a stand alone concept, individual, action or department. It is like a valued brand: An active, shared positive and aligned purposeful culture, which is built on a foundation of strong emotional transformative experiences such as a sustaining story of origin — why we exist and whom we serve. Nothing more and nothing less. A healthy, vibrant sustainable culture has three legs. If one is missing, it will quickly become wobbly and tip over taking everything with it. If two is missing, you will be DOA.

These three legs are:

  1. Visionary Leadership
  2. Empathetic Management
  3. Creative Catalysts

All supported by its brand community of stakeholders. The stronger the community, the stronger and smoother support for the three legs of the culture, which will be supported by and built from the ground up. Incremental innovation is possible without a purposeful culture. However, continuous transformation is only possible in a purposeful culture, and without continuous transformation businesses will not be sustainable…. it will be tomorrow’s corporate road kill… killed by relentless competition, change and innovation.

Incremental innovation is possible without a purposeful culture. However, continuous transformation is only possible in a purposeful culture, and without continuous transformation businesses will not be sustainable…. it will be tomorrow’s corporate road kill… killed by relentless competition, change and innovation.

Work The Future, Today: Collaboration, Innovation + Transformation

There are two basic processes that bring the future to you and your organization: innovation and transformation, which are really two different sides to the same coin. Too much has been written about innovation and too precious little on transformation. And neither is truly possible without collaboration, which is often misunderstood.

Collaboration, at a conceptual level, involves:

  • —Awareness: We become part of a working entity with a shared purpose.
  • —Motivation: We drive to gain consensus in problem solving or development.
  • —Self-synchronization: We decide as individuals when things need to happen.
  • —Participation: We participate in collaboration and we expect others to participate.
  • Mediation: We negotiate and collaborate together and find a middle point.
  • —Reciprocity: We share and we expect sharing in return through reciprocity.
  • —Reflection: We think and consider alternatives.
  • —Engagement: We proactively engage rather than wait and see.

Innovation is the harnessing of creative thought to a useful end for a short-term goal, which these days means working hard to try to stay in place to avoid slipping ever backwards. “Innovation is often born from individuals who view design as a way to shape forward-thinking ideas. While design alone can’t deliver the promise of innovation, frameworks such as design thinking and lean innovation provide methodologies and a mindset that are required for customer-centric solutions.”

Transformation is:

  • Future shared value creation for a long-term goal.
  • A shared act of imagination translated into a treasured future.
  • The art of scientifically bringing creativity continuously to life.
  • Applied creativity that makes a long-term difference.
  • Irreversible, substantive, creates new identity, and contains a shift in purpose.
  • Typically a shared activity where people come together to co-create the future today and create something of lasting value.
Transformation is ultimately about the collective quest for meaning at work, play and life — to be better together.

It might be said that true and sustainable transformation is really about the creation of an ever-renewing story that is encapsulated in a living breathing brand/culture. The ingredients of a sustainable culture in the New World of Work are:

  • Brand Purpose (WHY: passion, promise and perception)
  • Brand Participation (WHO + HOW: partnership, participation and process)
  • Brand Performance (WHAT + WHEN + WHERE: people, planet and profits)

So, what’s YOUR New Story?

Purpose, Leadership, Place, Practice, and now bringing the pieces together mean exactly what? What it means is that you need to begin crafting the New Story. The one in which you pull the future towards you, you surround it, you dance with it, you make it real and share it with others.

What it means is that you need to begin crafting the New Story. The one in which you pull the future towards you, you surround it, you dance with it, you make it real and share it with others.

We don’t quite yet know just what the New Story will look like but the outlines of the narrative are emerging from the fog of the past. It’s more than about harmony instead of control; it’s more feminine than masculine; it’s more about stewardship than exploitation; it’s more about co-creation than already built. And it’s more about living in the present with an eye to the future than not being present and looking toward the past.

We conclude our manifesto with a curtain call next: A playbook to get you started on your pathway to purpose, possibility and plenty. The path to sustainable profits is through shared, aligned positive purpose. And in blog #6 we’re going to show you the way; the pathway to profits through purposeful transformative culture.

Who Are Those Guys? Whitney Vosburgh and Charlie Grantham are two purpose bandits who steal from the rich in purpose and give to the poor. They have collaborated with many companies, colleges, cities and communities in the act of transformation through purpose-built, values-driven strategy and activation. To find out how we might co-create transformative results with you, visit us at Brand New Purpose.