'COVID-19 the perfect storm for the rise of purpose in an otherwise nonchalant world'

Guest Column: Girish Balachandran, the Managing Partner of On Purpose, writes why 'purpose' will move from buzzwords and superficial mission statements to something deeper and more visceral

e4m by Girish Balachandran
Updated: May 12, 2020 5:58 PM
Girish Balachandran

It has taken a global pandemic to remind us what it means to be human. To change the question from ‘What are we achieving?’ to ‘What are we becoming?’ The words ‘migrant labour’ have entered our vocabulary with a fury and suddenly we are more aware of the value of our household help, the security guards, the delivery people, even our barbers and hairstylists. This is the first time we are witnessing a universal sense of solidarity, kindness and compassion towards people and all forms of natural life. Notions of inequality, climate change and poverty seem relatable, like never before.

 It’s the perfect storm for the rise of purpose in an otherwise, nonchalant world. Here are three reasons why I think purpose will move from a collection of ‘buzzwords’ and mission statements meant to make organisations sound better, to something deeper, more visceral. 

  1. Purpose always starts within an individual first and then the organisation

If you cannot feel it in your gut, it probably doesn’t exist. Purpose is core to identity; it rages inside till we make choices to align our lives with our reason to exist. As an employee in an organisation, the mismatch between our desire for self-actualisation and the organisation’s priorities may often leave us frustrated. In a post COVID19 world, we will see a stronger demand for this alignment. Entrepreneurs will rise and businesses models will originate to fulfil this need, by those driven to fulfil their own ambitions and with wider acceptance from markets and investors for more impact driven models.  

For entrepreneurs, it’s about having the courage to step into the unknown and then finding other like-minded people, who see an opportunity to align their own interests and ambitions with the values the brand stands for. ‘Post’ COVID19, we will see a lot more of this – a longing to be part of something bigger than ourselves, our own tribe.  

  1. Employees will become as important to organisational success as products and solutions

The fast adaption to new business models and ways of working will be dependent on a set of people who believe in the ‘why’ behind the organisational purpose. It can no longer just be about making money, but in some form of fulfilment in the meaningful outcomes of the work performed. If not, COVID19 has now made us more resilient to contemplating survival without the trappings of bloated incomes and extravagant lifestyles. We know now, what it means to be able to live with less, do less, consume less – we need less. This new sense of austerity can be deeply empowering for people to make active choices about how they want to spend their time, the careers they want to pursue and the lives they want to live. Connecting with ‘why’ behind organisational purpose and existence will become table stakes.  

  1. Authenticity and being human will take premium over everything else

The difference between ‘fake’ purpose – written on walls and not core to the business and ‘deep fakes’ – brands masquerading corporate social responsibility as purpose, will  become more evident in comparison to those enterprises, driven by people and purpose, who’s businesses are created from a deep sense of responsibility towards society. Employees, customers, and communities will demand it – and so will investors. Post the emergence of COVID19, now more than ever, we are watching what brands are saying, what they are doing and the difference between intent and action. As an example, those donating to ‘care funds’ for higher visibility and subsequently laying off workers, will be under the scanner and suffer irreparable loss of trust and reputation.  

COVID19 has pressed the brakes on this otherwise, never-ending race for more. Hopefully, we are all wondering if it’s one we want to re-join or change tracks for one that’s more compassionate and kinder on ourselves and those around us.  

Girish Balachandran is Managing Partner of ON PURPOSE, a creative communications consultancy founded to drive social change in India. Available on Twitter as @Girisham1

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com

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