The most successful companies in the future will have a higher purpose.July 07, 2021 · 2 min read
Over the years I’ve paid a lot of attention to successful organizations. Along with this research I have continually questioned some of the basic assumptions about the role and responsibility organizations have to their people and society. Fueled by the challenges of our time, and the larger cultural and technological shifts, it appears that profit is now inextricably linked with purpose. I think this is necessary, and although I don’t believe technology and private enterprise are a global panacea, with the right framework they can do a lot of good.
I’m not alone in pondering the ultimate purpose of the technology we use, and companies we work for. The challenges we are facing today seem to be large, and the stakes high. So now more than ever I find myself drawn to companies that are pushing the world forward and having a positive impact. I’m not totally blind to the inherent paradox that comes with judging the ethics and potential impact of technology companies, but I do think it’s a worthwhile exercise. Like most things in life, there is no black or white. Often times the true impact of a company or technology doesn’t come into focus until decades or even centuries later. With the passing of time their contribution and impact are palpable, but rarely are they judged as entirely positive or negative. Simply, they bring about progress while responding to the vales and culture. Some examples that are top of mind are companies like Walmart, Nike and Apple. It’s undeniable that these companies have been incredibly impactful in our country as well as the wider world, but they are not without their faults. At some point all three of these icons have been accused of human rights violations. Does that mitigate their impact and positive effect on our society? I think it certainly deserves deeper consideration, not to dismiss their impact, but to help us think about the types of organizations needed in the future.
Organizations evolve like the people that work for them. As the culture changes, they have to adapt to stay relevant. To respond to the challenges of the day, our organizations need to evolve now more than ever. They have the ability to evolve within the framework of capitalism and bring about a better society, not only by virtue of their products and services, but also in the ways they treat and grow their people and communities. Companies of all sizes are waking up to this fact.
Larry Fink summarizes it best:
"I’m optimistic that the most successful and profitable organizations of the future will have a higher purpose. Purpose unifies management, employees, and communities. It drives ethical behavior and creates an essential check on actions that go against the best interests of stakeholders. Purpose guides culture, provides a framework for consistent decision-making, and, ultimately, helps sustain long-term financial returns for the shareholders of your company."