Let’s dig some more into how you can recognise a purpose and some pretty cool actual  strategies in how to keep moving forward, even if during this time that might seem discouraging or not possible.

Our lives have been disrupted, some have lost their jobs, others are struggling to cope with workload while caring for their family, and it might seem that thinking about our purpose is not really on the cards.

However, I’ve been encouraged still by the Rehumanizing Leadership and its focus on how to think about this differently (promise, last post on the book!), and also seeing different kind of  leadership emerging from this crises.


How you know purpose is truly guiding what you do 

Many organisations talk about purpose, their reason for being and often this is something crafted by offsite meeting with the senior executives who really “get” where the company should be heading.

Yet, the actual test for purpose is when there is an opportunity to grow the business but the opportunity is declined because it does not fit with the company’s purpose, values and ethics.

If we don’t know the purpose of why we do what we do, it is easy to take any opportunity that looks great rather than keeping a tighter ship in thinking that you only take actions that align with the deeper purpose of your work.

I can see how this attitude during corona crises is not necessarily an option for many as the windows of opportunity have declined in many sectors extremely rapidly.

Still, the four sets of key questions posed by the authors in Rehumanizing Leadership are extremely useful when you start thinking about your current situation and how your purpose could become clearer (p. 217-218):

Context: What is the environment that we are operating in? What is changing? What is happening at the edge of our industry/field? 

Customer: What do the people we serve need and want in their experience of life? 

Capability: What do we uniquely provide for the world? What can we uniquely do? What do we need to get great at? 

Caring: What ultimately do our people care most about when they are motivated and engaged?  

The Context  and Customer are externally focused questions that require you to observe the outside world, the changes taking place at the moment, and the potential changes yet to come.

For example, in some industries like higher education and even manufacturing, coronavirus is pushing against current operational models: most teaching is now online and many companies are shifting quickly to innovate new products (eg masks, ventilators, hand sanitisers) that have never been part of their production or any strategy.

Capability and Caring are internally focused questions that help reflecting on the in-house capabilities and aspirations within the company and amongst teams and individual employees.

These questions do also relate to the external conditions but very much drive thinking inwards as well: the unique offerings of the company, which skills and capabilities are in short but could be strengthened, and what does an engaged workforce look like.

During these crises, companies will see sudden changes at a global scale and new opportunities and new challenges of course will rise.

Focusing on these kinds of questions is now more crucial than ever to make sure that whatever learnings are coming out of this situation are captured for further scrutiny what a future can look like.


Ask that question: Thinking and seeing the future 

Imagine this scene:

You have a weekly staff meeting coming up.

You know what staff meetings are like: everyone attends, someone has an agenda and so you work through those points, and in the end there might be some other issues that need discussing.

Often there are PowerPoints and other forms of presentation, and that’s it.

But if you were told that the staff meeting would have no technology, no one is allowed to present a powerpoint but that the time is to be used only on answering one question together:

“What’s next?”

In fact, that is exactly what Steve Jobs did.

Every Wednesday he had a strategy meeting with these rules: no technology, no presentations.

Just pure focus on answering the question of “What’s next?” for Apple: what are the latest emerging trends, what opportunities might lie and where, which technologies, systems and mindsets are out there, and which need to be invented.

Apparently Jobs was a mastermind in picking up early weak signals about future opportunities and changes and had a relentless focus on the future.

But the strength really relies in bringing people and ideas together: gathering as much intel as possible, asking people to speak up, following up on hints and intuition and building really a knowledge sharing ecosystem where ideas can move forward faster.

Sounds pretty much exactly what we need right now.


The emerging sharing and innovation communities 

One of the initiatives that I have been following with interest is the creation of the Australian Innovation Community, an initiative by QUT academic Chad Renondo and Di Somerville from RGTC Group that has resulted in a Slack platform that brings Australian innovators together and enables them to share ideas, resources, and make connections to scale up initiatives.

(Listen here to Chad Renando and Di Somerville talk about the idea and how they realised what was needed).

Connecting people and ideas especially during coronavirus is paramount so that there is less duplication of efforts and more collaboration; there is definitely a new urgency in every country (at least from communities’ perspective) to make sure we have the best available strategies, products and technologies to manage the crises.

The basic premise is that together we can excel in even more innovation and it will be interesting to follow what this community gets up to during and after the crises, which ideas were pushed forward and how the platform enabled ideas and opportunities to emerge.

Another community that I am following on Facebook is the Kindness Pandemic which is a Facebook group for sharing random acts of kindness in Australia, and how community members are pulling together during these extraordinary times.

To say something about how people are pitching in is a message the founders of the group posted the other day: they had received 10 000 posts in the last 3 hours and were overwhelmed and had to press pause to be able to even follow up on what was said.

Many of the examples that are being posted show us the best of humanity, and this group brings a very different experience for those following news: it shows how we are all connected and how people think about and care for even strangers that they see in a time of need.

Coming together online and sharing our ideas and actions can truly inspire others but gives us also hope that the future can be different from the past.


Going towards the future

Perhaps these crises will change how we communicate, how we care for each other and induce more humanity and random acts of kindness than before.

But what is clear is that we will not be returning to “normal” ever again and neither should we.

This crises has shown us how interconnected we are and exposed also weaknesses in our healthcare systems, risk communication decisions, and how such complex fast-moving crises overwhelm our systems relatively easily.

But staying at home hopefully can at least install some time for us to reflect on the questions posed and also reimagining our lives and the future that we can take action to head towards to.

Stay safe and well everyone 🙂