Every year, companies spend countless hours and dollars determining how to build a culture of innovation. From implementing incentive plans, to new office layouts, to equipping rooms with foosball tables, beanbag chairs and video game systems–leaders frequently struggle to determine what environments and workplace perks will motivate employees. However, game rooms and kitchens stocked with snacks are merely accoutrements–the key driver has been in front of CMOs all along. It’s company purpose.

Through our research, we’ve found that an understanding of company purpose and visible commitment to it makes it easier for employees to innovate. CMOs therefore must think about purpose as a mechanism for unleashing innovation and sustaining it. Leaders who commit to articulating their company’s purpose in a clear and simple way play a critical part in making innovation easier.

The Value of Purpose

By nature, innovating isn’t easy. Organizational hierarchies and tortuous approval processes often slow the communication of ideas within companies, and erect barriers. During a global survey of more than 10,000 consumers and employees, we learned that employees believe innovating is the second least simple thing to do in the workplace (next to asking for a raise). Participants also identified the top attributes that contribute to workplace innovation. The top seven:

  • Solid understanding of company purpose
  • Leadership’s commitment to that purpose
  • Environment that empowers employees to speak their minds
  • Workspaces with open floor plans
  • Having a close friend at work
  • Ability to find and share information easily internally
  • Open door-policy

Understanding of and commitment to purpose top the list.

Defining Purpose

We define purpose not as what a company does, but rather why it does it, answering the critical question: “Why do we do what we do?” It is a necessary organizing principle that sits at the nexus of talent, branding, and CSR. It motivates employees, guides behavior, and must be stated in a way that is simple, noteworthy and remarkably fresh. A purpose articulated in this way works hard for a company, serving as a cultural unifier, compass for product development and innovation driver.

Consider eyewear manufacturer Warby Parker’s purpose statement: “We believe everyone has a right to see.” This purpose reflects the company’s partnership with non-profit institutions for its “buy a pair, give a pair” program that ensures for every pair of glasses purchased, one pair is donated to someone in need. It also expresses the company’s value proposition—offering affordable eyewear to consumers.

And it’s key to driving innovation. When asked why the company is innovative during an interview, CEO and Founder Neil Blumenthal noted: “We’re a new brand of designer eyewear, designed to let people express their personality while doing good in the world. We’ve made pricing simple — there’s one price, $95. And for every pair we sell, we distribute one to someone in need.” It all harkens back to the purpose.

See also outdoor apparel company Patagonia for inspiration. Their mission statement is central to guiding program and product development: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” This purpose has guided numerous breakthrough programs — as early as 1993, the company was creating fleece material from recycled soda bottles. Their common threads initiative encourages the repair, reuse, and recycling of their products. Patagonia was named one of the most innovative companies in 2012.

These innovative companies offer prime examples of creating purpose statements that are simple and fresh.

Clarifying Your Purpose

How do CMOs articulate a company purpose in a way that resonates with employees? They must develop the purpose through the lens of simplicity. When assessing brand purpose, leaders must consider whether the message is:

  • Clear: Is the message is well organized, written in a way that is easy to understand and free of jargon?
  • Credible: Is the message straightforward and transparent, particularly when it comes to motivation and consequences?
  • Actionable: Is the information articulated and organized in the order of relative importance, omitting extraneous elements?
  • Inspiring: Is the message appealing — respectful, human, not assuming expert knowledge — and organized based on the employee’s information needs?
  • Relevant: Is the purpose useful and relevant to the world we live in?

The Simple Truth

Applying simplicity to purpose is not simple–it takes a judicious eye to recognize and strip away unnecessary messages and amplify only key elements. But it’s a necessary duty for CMOs, a critical first step to answering the innovation question, and how today’s modern marketing leaders can play a high-impact role in driving their businesses.

Margaret Molloy is the Global CMO for strategic branding firm Siegel+Gale.

Follow her @MargaretMolloy

This article first appeared in Wired Innovation Insights.

Contributor

Recently Published

Key Takeaway: The double-empathy problem, a concept popular among social scientists, suggests that people with different identities and communication styles struggle to empathize with each other. This theory has gained attention due to its potential to explain why different people in society struggle to empathise, potentially leading to personal and societal problems. However, the double-empathy […]
Key Takeaway: Research indicates that modernization and rapid technological advancements are contributing to contemporary problems such as mental health issues. An evolutionary mismatch theory suggests that our physical and psychological adaptations become misaligned with the environment, leading to issues like tooth decay, obesity, and diabetes. The modern world also presents challenges such as crowded cities, […]

Top Picks

Key Takeaway: Oscar nominees Cillian Murphy and Bradley Cooper are gaining attention for their performances and preparation methods. Murphy lost 20 pounds and practiced fake cigarettes to mimic Oppenheimer’s appearance, while Cooper spent six years training in conducting. Method acting, a psychological approach, is often used to make characters seem more real and believable. However, […]
Key Takeaway: A team of astronomers has identified seven candidates for alien megastructures, known as Dyson spheres, within 1,000 light-years of Earth. These spheres, which consist of floating power collectors, factories, and habitats, would take up more space until they surrounded almost the entire star like a sphere. The seven promising candidates are all “M-dwarfs” […]
Key Takeaway: A recent study found that people tend to underestimate the negative implications of declining an invitation, even when it’s not accepted. People tend to assume others will react poorly when an invitation isn’t accepted, but they’re relatively unaffected when someone turns down an invite they’ve extended. People extending invites are more understanding and […]

Trending

I highly recommend reading the McKinsey Global Institute’s new report, “Reskilling China: Transforming The World’s Largest Workforce Into Lifelong Learners”, which focuses on the country’s biggest employment challenge, re-training its workforce and the adoption of practices such as lifelong learning to address the growing digital transformation of its productive fabric. How to transform the country […]

Join our Newsletter

Get our monthly recap with the latest news, articles and resources.

Login

Welcome to Empirics

We are glad you have decided to join our mission of gathering the collective knowledge of Asia!
Join Empirics