I’ve been musing on the question of Purpose while reading the Wall Street Journal and online business press, trying to understand how so many bright people can have caused so much lasting damage.
Why Do Companies Exist?
There are those who think that businesses exist for solely utilitarian reasons: to satisfy customers, generate profits, create shareholder value or make the founders rich. You get the drift… Thousands of business pundits will tell you so.
Others think that businesses should be animated by some larger, enduring values-based Purpose, one that serves as sort of a moral compass to inspire and keep the organization and its people on a chosen course.
Classic examples of companies with a clear sense of Purpose include:
- Johnson & Johnson: “to alleviate pain and disease”
- Merck: “in the business of preserving and improving human life
- Disney: “to bring happiness to millions”
Those of us who worked at Apple in the 1980s were inspired by this mantra: Changing the way people live, learn, work and play. We were indoctrinated in this belief system, starting with Orientation, our first day on the job (think brainwashing, Apple style!)
It’s safe to assume that this notion still animates the company.