My admiration for Challenger brands—brands that look squarely in the eyes of the incumbents, the Goliaths of a category, and say “There is a better way and here it is”—stems from a discipline and devotion to their Purpose that isn’t swayed by fashion, trend or whim. They remain focused on the reason their founders began the company to start with.
Disturbing employee quotations
“He would find a hole in the data and then explode.”
“I would see people practically combust.”
“There are so many people running for the door not just because the ship is sinking, but because the captain of the ship is screaming at them, blaming it on them, and telling them it’s their fault.”
“The joke in the office was that when it came to work/life balance, work came first, life came second, and trying to find the balance came last.”
“You learn how to diplomatically throw people under the bus.”
You might be excused for thinking these quotations stem from some terrifying, corporate Ayn Rand winner-takes-all hell-hole where fear, intimidation, and bullying ruled the day. Ironically, these quotations come from employees of two of the most famous retailers on the planet.
Purpose. It’s a trending topic for businesses today. A quick Google search of the phrase “company + purpose” produces a whopping 1,030,000,000 hits. Harvard Business Review has published literally dozens of articles on the subject in the past 12 months alone. And leaders across the country – and the world – are paying attention; working to figure out what role purpose should play in their organizations and in their cultures, because this topic is becoming increasingly near and dear to their employees’ and customers’ hearts.
The Race Is On
Organisations are clamouring to join the race to proclaim their higher purpose, raison d’être, new principles and supporting values and programmes. And imbed sustainability consciousness into their culture. It seems that business has awakened to the need to heal, sustain and nurture the environment, society and the economy; to adopt people, planet and profit bottom lines. There has been an accompanying proliferation of sustainability consultancies, service providers, academic papers and conferences.
Like millions of Americans, I was surprised and a little saddened by Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. I wasn’t surprised, however, by the sharp emotional divide between those who wanted to stay and those who wanted to leave. That’s because the Brexit debate was really about culture. And for a concept that many leaders believe is too intangible or fluffy to worry about, culture sure has a way of bringing out the fight in people.