Think HBR

Defining purpose is crucial to innovation

Defining the purpose and defining your purpose are crucial to innovation and they are very different principles, yet very much aligned. Both are focused on the end user’s experience with any organisation.
The purpose of any innovation is (or should be) to solve a problem for the end user. In workshops we talk about Finding the Gap. Products such as Throat Scope, and connector sites like Airbnb, are the end results of solutions-based innovations.
The User Xperience is crucial at every stage in developing a product or a service with purpose. Once the research has been conducted to support the Gap in the market, identification of other ‘like’ products or services ensures differentiation between their product and yours. Sometimes we research to ascertain if the market can support another player.
On that point, I often wonder why we keep letting supermarket chains in? Kaufland, a huge chain popular in Bulgaria and Poland and with origins in West Germany in the 1980s, has advertised for managers in Australia. What is the gap that has been identified in our market by this outlet that encourages them to enter an English-speaking country for the first time? And why Australia?
Defining the actual purpose of the product or service after ideation and prior to prototyping, can save you time, money and importantly, heartache. And heart is where we are heading next.
There is a movement happening and it’s global. Its aim is to bring heart back into business. Businesses, big businesses, are being asked to make a contribution. They are being asked to consciously consider how they are improving lives. How are they giving back? What is their social bottom line?
I have been fortunate to have developed a relationship with Simon Sinek’s Start With Why team over the last few years.
Ideation has tested resources and had several conversations around ‘Why’ purpose is important to individuals and to organisations.
One of the best conversations was with Peter Docker, Sinek’s right-hand man in Europe and co-author of his latest book. We were comparing the differences we felt about our own businesses when we nailed our purpose, our motivation, or to con the cliché, “our reason for getting up in the morning”.
I describe my discovery as a ‘kerklunk’ moment. Docker tells me he had ‘popcorn’. I fell into mine, his lifted everything! What we agreed on was that the shift was incremental, yet incredible. The reason we started our businesses became crucial to all decisions we made. Sounds obvious, but one of the most common things I hear in workshops or consultations is, “I’ve been reminded about the reason I started my business in the first place”. We get so caught up in the doing that we lose sight of the reason we are doing anything at all.
Discovering your ‘Why’ is not a 5-minute process. But it’s worth every one of the seven to ten hours it takes to identify. Suddenly you have a benchmark for everything you want to do and the way you action everything.
Zappos, the online shoe retailer based in Las Vegas, is a great example of an organisation living their ‘Why’ the best way they can. They are committed to providing Wow! through customer service. And they do. Their KPIs are geared to this.
For their call centre staff, it’s not a matter of how many calls per hour and how many sales they make. Their performance indicators are “Did our customers speak to a human being in under twenty seconds?” and “How many thank you cards were sent out by the team this month?"
Having a ‘Why’ doesn’t make you foolproof and it doesn’t make things effortless, but it does provide the rudder and the direction for each and every decision you make. And each decision you make is crucial to the culture of innovation in your organisation.
For further information contact Christina on 0425 236 156, email or visit
ChristinaGerakiteysHeadShot copy Christina Gerakiteys

Christina Gerakiteys is the Founder of UtopiaX and CEO of SingularityU Australia Summit. She is a change catalyst and instigator of Moonshot Ideation. Christina opens hearts and minds, inspiring impossible to possible.