The Purpose Economy: A book review by Bob Morris

Purpose EconomyThe Purpose Economy: How Your Desire for Impact, Personal Growth and Community Is Changing the World
Aaron Hurst
Elevate/A Russell Media Company (2014)

A rigorous examination of the key levers that can be used to advance the evolution of markets within the Purpose Economy

What exactly is the Purpose Economy? According to Aaron Hurst, it is defined “by the quest for people to have more [personal, social, and /or societal] purpose in their lives. It is an economy where value lies in establishing purpose for employees and customers — through serving greater needs than their own, enabling personal growth, and building community.” Values determine allocation of resources and that is as true of individuals as it is of organizations. That said, what Hurst asserts is that in this economy, adding value to others’ lives is the currency.

“The most powerful source of purpose comes from this concept: purpose comes when we know we have done something that we believe matters — to others, to society, and to ourselves. From the small and the mundane daily choices we make to systemic and historic impact, we strive to contribute to the well-being of the world around us.”

Each year, many of the companies ranked among those that are most highly-regarded and best to work for are also ranked among those that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their industry. That is not a coincidence. Consider also the fact that, during exit interviews of highly-valued employees, two of the most frequently cited reasons are not feeling that they and their efforts are appreciated, and, a loss of faith in — and lack of respect for — the purpose of the given organization.

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Hurst’s coverage.

o The Information Economy, and, After the Information Economy (Pages 34-44)
o The Ten Drivers of the New Economy (45-75)
o Shaping a New Model (93-95)
o Five Myths About Purpose (99-105)
o The Why and How of Purpose (115-124)
o Meaning-Making (126-130)
o The Purpose Organization — Defined (147-148)
o How Purpose Creates Value in Education (165-169)
o When Purpose Evaporates (174-176)
o Removing Silos (183-184)
o Lessons from the Zoo (191-193)
o Electric Cars and the Diffusion of Innovations Theory (206-211)
o Pro Bono Action Tank (222-224)
o Five Levers in Action: Nine Mini-Case Studies (236-240)

When I was a child and learning hymns in Sunday school, one of my favorites was Ina Ogdon’s “Brighten the Corner Where You Are.” I was reminded of that ancient hymn when I began to read Aaron Hurst’s Conclusion. Here is a brief excerpt: “The Jewish concept of tikkan olam, a Hebrew phrase that means ‘repair the world,’ suggests humanity’s shared responsibility to heal, repair, and transform the world. The Tibetan Buddhist tradition’s Bodhisattva Vow similarly focuses on repairing the world through the elimination of suffering. The vow states: ‘Although beings are numberless, I vow to save them all from suffering. I vow not to attain enlightenment until all beings are free from suffering’…In setting such unobtainable goals, we also have to directly admit that we will never achieve them, which grounds us in reality and forces us to bring humility to our ambitions within the Purpose Economy.” To repeat, values determine allocation of resources and that is as true of individuals as it is of organizations.

Those who share my high regard for The Purpose Economy are urged to check out Christoph Lueneberger’s A Culture of Purpose: How to Choose the Right People and Make the Right People Choose You as well as John Mackey and Rajendra S. Sisodia’s Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business and Firms of Endearment: How World-Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose (2nd Edition) co-authored by Sisodia, Jagdish N. Sheth, and David B. Wolfe.

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