An Experiment: How did we support the Emergence of our Collective Purpose?

“The metaphor that emerged was an image of a tree, with the trunk as the collective purpose and the branches as our individual purposes.” — Malek Jaber

The dysfunction and inhumanity of many organizations can partly be traced back to lack of alignment, and/or lack of purpose. Recent studies show that purposeful organisations thrive rather than just survive. In order to build a cohesive team, it is important to be in tune with one another. This way we go on a journey together, travelling in the same direction… Purpose is our direction in this journey.

“Eighty-nine percent of executives surveyed said a strong sense of collective purpose drives employee satisfaction” — Harvard Business Review

If you would like to explore a different, and open, methodology to discovering your group purpose, this is for you.

“To co-create a purpose statement together so that at the end of the sessions we can say yes! I resonate with it.” — Malek Jaber

The Evolutionary Purpose Collective, within Teal for Startups (T4S), is the group inquiring into the evolutionary direction of an organization over its lifetime. We decided to explore what purpose means for our collective. We went through this process ourselves and are sharing it here.

The Pre-work before Exploring our Collective Purpose

For this process, we believe that before looking at an organizational purpose, it is essential to first for each of us individually to have a clear individual personal purpose. For this reason, we co-created a safe space for group learning and connecting, which took the shape of hosting several weekly calls leveraging Teal and Theory U principles. This space provided the group members with time for introspection and for supporting the emergence of their own personal purpose.

“I found my personal purpose exploration challenging yet a very rewarding personal experience.”— Steph Thommen

This was important for two reasons:

  • Because we barely knew each other, we needed time to build a level of trust where true co-creation and sharing happens.
  • While several of us had already explored personal purpose, it wasn’t known to everyone else. This collective exploration helped crystalize things for many of us and allowed the group to see itself.

How did we create this safe space?

Anybody who wanted to participate in the Evolutionary Purpose Collective joined our Skype group. We gave people the time to arrive and settle, having two minutes of silent reflection. Then we opened the space for everyone to check in: each participant shares how they are feeling at the moment, where they are coming from or their reflections from the silent time, as well as their intention for participating in the meeting, in as much or as little details as they want.

During the sessions, we facilitated a non-judgemental space to encourage curiosity and deep listening by asking open questions and supporting people in their sharing. This non-judgemental space starts with the check-in, and is maintained throughout the call.

We closed each session with a round of reflective checkouts, where everyone could share their experience of the call as well as anything else they felt was relevant. Those check-out reflections often became our guidance for the following week.

Illustrated by Mieke Byerley

Session 1 — Sharing our Individual Purposes

In the first session, we created a Google Doc where everyone shared their personal purpose.

Being a source of appreciation for people and organizations” — Gertraud Wegst

“To provide people with unorthodox and authentic human solutions and experiences, that enable meaningful connections, collaboration and generosity, by striving to learn, appreciate and connect directly with people intuitively, co-intelligently and perceptively with integrity. Thereby inspiring the belief that humanity’s gloriously complex and diverse potential for good is worth tending to, through facilitating an organic ecosystem to nurture, protect and sustain meaning, well-being, abundance and worth.” — Mieke Byerley

We then created an invitational space for people to read out their personal purpose. Following that, we moved into a silent reflection to allow for everyone to digest what had been shared. Afterwards, we discussed how people resonated with what had been uncovered, noting the essence of what emerged for the group.

What stood out most was the many common threads among the themes and overall purposes, which naturally became the next step in our exploration.

Session 2 — Moving from Individual Purposes into a Collective Purpose

Each group member was asked to review the notes from the first session and choose 5 words or themes that they felt most connected to. These were added into a shared document and word-clouds were generated across the previous week’s notes.

Each person was given time to write an initial draft purpose sentence.

Between session 2 and 3, we reflected and digested those sentences and used this as our starting point for the following week.

Session 3 — Expressing a Collective Purpose

We began by reflecting back on the previous sessions and invited everyone to pick the one thing that stood out for them. From there, we collectively shared and offered clarifications in order to make sure everyone understand each of the sentences.

We discussed the approach we would take. ow were we going to create a meaningful statement? It was proposed that we leverage Adam Liepzig’s model, which we extended as follows:

  • Who are we? What are our values?
  • What do we do? What do we want to create?
  • Who are we doing it for?
  • Why do they want it?
  • What makes our hearts sing?

This was a generative process where we created an unified answer.

Each wrote the group purpose that emerged for them, following the model above. We then reflected to try to get to the essence. And our initial draft answers are below:

  • Who are we? What are our values? “We are loving, evolving humans who are true to ourselves”
  • What do we do? What do we want to create? “Show exploratory pathways towards an abundant world through self expression”
  • Who are we doing it for? “For startups that are open to the benefits everyone”
  • Why do they want it? “Be able to play our way to an abundant world”
  • What makes our hearts sing? “Based on of trust, peace, and love. Always growing and doing together“

Sessions 4 & 5 — Emerging a Statement from all of those Answers

As a starting point, we gathered suggestions about how we should move on from the previous sessions and create a single purpose statement.

Everybody was then given the space to create an individual purpose statement, from which we collectively picked four.

Lastly, we highlighted the one which we most resonated with. After a couple of days, as things sunk in, we realised that we needed more emphasis on the “why” . As a result, we had one last session to finalise it. Those two sessions really took the same format. When running this process for yourself, you will likely find that this happens once, or several times, and this is good. Purpose is an organic thing that grows and evolve with the organisation and its people. It’s an a process which, to remain relevant, needs to be on-going. It also enables the organisation to sense check on a regular basis. Together, we refined that statement to: “Revealing the abundant world for everyone”

Let’s Celebrate!

The Evolutionary Purpose Global Collective

Above is the evolutionary purpose global collective, Amanda (Netherlands), Brent (Canada), Gertraud (Germany), Jussi (Finland), Karolina (UK), Malek (UK), Mieke (New Zealand), Natalia (Bulgaria), Steph (UK), Tena (Croatia), who participated in the journey to discover our collective purpose.

Special thanks to Amanda (Canada), Brent and Karolina. Brent for sharing his favouring blog structure, Karolina for co-facilitating the Evolutionary Purpose stream and co-surfacing the purpose stream process, and Amanda for her editing skills.

This is one way to find your collective purpose, but there are other ways. What is important to us is going with the flow, removing and adding steps as you go. You can also use a completely different method. Go with what feels right for you.

As a follow up, we have decided to share our experience in a Webinar as well as offering online sessions for people to explore their personal purpose. We also offer businesses the opportunity to explore their organisational purpose. Feel free to connect with us below.

Well done for making it all the way!

If you resonated or connected with this blog, please like and share it below and-or join our facebook group for a conversation.

About the Authors and Facilitators

This experiment was hosted and authored by Malek who is the co-initiator of T4S and co-founder of UnleashLeadership, and Steph who is the founder of Ikigai and co-creator for T4S.