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Does purpose really drive profit?

For years now, the business world has been led to believe that it does; that purpose rallies people around a greater cause, building customer affinity, establishing trust and opening wallets. But purpose, alone, is not the silver bullet. And as a business concept, it is greatly misunderstood.

What, then, is purpose? Terri-Leigh Cassel, Managing Director of experience design firm SHIFT, provides clarity: ‘Purpose is a passion to right a wrong in the world. It is business’ very reason for being and is essential because it creates clarity of direction – a compass.’

However, what really drives profit is not purpose itself. For purpose to be realised, a business must identify what it is best at – and develop a plan for activating this across every area of its delivery: people and culture, products and services, systems and processes, brand and communication.

According to Mike dos Santos, CX Strategy Director at SHIFT: ‘It is a holistic experience strategy – one that considers a business’ full picture – that actually unlocks real, sustainable growth. This is where purpose is put to work, creating competitive advantage and driving commercial success. Without this coherent plan of action, a purpose is merely an intent.’

A recent study conducted by global leadership consulting firm DDI World further substantiates this viewpoint. According to the study’s findings, purpose-led companies outperform their respective markets by up to 42% financially. However, a critical point to make is that simply articulating a purpose statement is not enough. Being led by purpose means having an actionable plan for delivering on the purpose across the entire business.

This is an ethos that has guided SHIFT’s own transformation from a traditional brand design agency to a holistic experience design partner, putting purpose to work to create transformative impact for its clients and the wider world. Through its proprietary methodology, “Impact Compass”, SHIFT works closely with each client to uncover and articulate a clear, authentic purpose; one that stems from a deep-seated passion to overcome a pressing issue in the world. This is followed by the development of a holistic plan of action for achieving that purpose, centred on what the client is best at – their unique competitive advantage that ultimately drives financial growth.

So, yes, purpose does drive profit. But it is nothing without action.

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