To all purpose-drivers. Whatever you think about the man and what he espouses, Trump's campaign was an abrupt demonstration of the power of purpose. Contrast his with a campaign that seemingly displayed much greater empathy with peoples’ values and beliefs (we logically are “stronger together”) and you get some sense of the balance of power between these tenets and how different they can be.
The most useful observation for anyone involved in developing purpose-driven organisations, is that people aligned themselves to his purpose, which they strongly (and easily) identified with – it struck a chord with what they think is important to them, as well as what's important in the “world” they live in.
Trump’s campaign slogan not only expressed a single minded purpose, it also implied a common good for Americans – it had enough meaning-power for people to suspend their doubts about it happening and overlook the normally devastating scandals that emerged. No one was marking Trump down for implying that America was in some kind of trouble (we’re already “great” right?), because large numbers of “aligners” with his stated purpose, didn’t feel great about life anyway.
There are some obvious parallels with the Brexit campaign. Whether you agree with it or not, the Brexit purpose was clear despite the lack of a comprehensive plan for the after party. “Take back control” appealed to a specific mix of audience and there were enough voters who aligned themselves with it to confound the “experts”. The purpose overrode the practicalities.
Purpose was not “embedded” in anyone in either campaign – it pulled people in.
Developing Purposense – the challenge for business
The challenge for businesses trying to harness the power of purpose, is that slogans and statements can remain just words – with which you can agree or disagree - until your people, your customers, suppliers and stakeholders get a real sense it from you; until they find and give out “purposense” (to coin a phrase).
Only then can all these groups really decide to align themselves with your stated intent and begin to work with that desired purposefulness.
The two referenda have also shown us how essential it is to be true to purpose, as well as having a common good at its heart. Without these, any alignment is quickly replaced by dissonance and argument about the “words” and not the “sense”.
We have yet to test whether Trump and his supporters will live true to their stated purpose. In the case of Britain’s exit from the EU, “Brexit means Brexit” instils no purpose and makes no purposense. It’s not something you can align yourself with and has no eye to the common good.
If you think purpose is something that can just be stated and then embedded in your business, take heed; if you don’t operate with a true sense of purpose, you’ll lose the power it can bring. Like Brexit, uncertainty is sure to follow.