Building Purpose driven innovation to solve the worlds biggest problems.
We live in an amazing yet quite questionable Era. On one side the world is battling a deadly pandemic and on the other Elon musk has become the richest person on the planet. Why are these incidents important and what can we learn from it? We call our selves the most advanced civilization yet to step on this earth with our cutting-edge technological innovations, But are we focusing on the right problems? Are we addressing the world’s most challenging issues correctly? The pandemic has shown us that we probably have missed some of the most important aspects in this world. The pandemic has opened our eyes to show us that we lack innovation, investment and technological advancements in healthcare, education, poverty & many other areas. The current world order and the financial eco system as we know it is fragile and it clearly is not focusing on the important issues that we need to solve as a human race. And now more than ever before I think the world is starting to understand this and trying to shift gears to a more sustainability focused eco system. Elon Musk becoming the richest person on the planet is a good example for this, investors and technology giants are now looking at companies and innovations which not just makes money but are going to have a larger positive impact on society which has a more sustainable model to the world. And sustainability as not just a side CSR marketing gimmick but as the core of its business and innovations.
Everyone knows that we as humans have always used the earth’s resources to create fortune for one another but have done little to keep it sustainable. If you want to know how serious this is, just watch the Netflix documentary by David Attenborough — A life on our planet.
These numbers are scary and devastating but it is the reality, it is the result of our ancestors, the previous generations and us, yes us! we are all blamed for this. We as humans live in a structured and boxed social eco system where we have set rules, statuses and goals that we think is the only thing which is important to live for, we study our entire lives, get a job, some start their own business and get married, have children and the cycle keeps going on, but very little of us think of what we need to give back to the society or how do we sustain the earth for the future generation, because of this selfish mindsets the previous generations before us has failed to sustain mother nature and the planet to what it is right now and if we as this generation continue at this pace there surely wont be a world that would be sustainable for humans to live.
Climate change is only one part of the equation, there are more devastating issues that we need to solve.
We have watched so many doomsday Hollywood movies which gives us an idea on how the world could end but day by day it seems that we might be heading to that reality if we do not act fast.
So how do we solve this? Can we change this around? The good thing is yes, we still can turn this around, but the clock is ticking, and we may be running out of time.
Before we get into the solutions, we need to understand some of the underlying concepts and models that we can use to solve these problems, and of course everyone has heard the term of “Sustainability”. But what is sustainability? According to the definition given sustainability is about -> “Meeting our present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Brundtland Commission 1987). It has three components — environmental conservation, social responsibility, and economic development. While most people primarily associate sustainability with environmental conservation, it is about people and the health of our communities! “
Most of the time we think that sustainability is only about the environment aspect but it is actually about Environmental, Economic, and Social all 3 together.
The united nations came forth with setting up a guideline in 2015 called the sustainable development goals. According to this “The Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace, and justice. Learn more and take action.”
So, sustainability has a broader aspect which covers many areas. And businesses can add great value to solve these problems if they have a clear focus on them.
From the industrial revolution to the current era if you look at the way businesses have been operating, the core of it has been the same and with very little change. The main objective of a company is to always increase revenue, create value to the shareholder and customers, improve on financials year on year and so on. This is all good and yes these are of course crucial factors for a company to survive and without this a company cannot exist, we all know that, and it is a no brainer. But the modern-day company must have a bigger purpose, the modern-day company must solve real world problems and while doing this it should also make money and be sustainable with all those other key factors which was mentioned before, this is easy said than done. This is because the entire structure of how an organization runs, the financial markets and world order, capitalism whatever you can call it, is mostly about the “money”, by hook or by crook how much can you make, because of this structure companies find it hard to step out of their comfort zones, invest and tackle real world problems.
The legacy mindset
Within the past decade we have seen organizations and businesses trying to shift their focus and even though their main product or service is not directly battling sustainability problems, but they at least try to operate in their day-to-day business activities in a sustainable manner. And now we can see a shift in the business world where the focus among entrepreneurs, investors, and even corporate leaders to build business that would have a wider impact on society and the world. In order to do these, businesses need to focus on which is called the triple bottom line.
To build a purpose driven business or operate as one you need to have a long-term vision. Most businesses operate for short term goals or quarterly based achievements, we all know this and probably live in that exact structure currently. A business cannot fully operate on quarterly basis or neither operate fully on long term. There needs to be a balance, and this is not a rocket science of a concept that is directly related to sustainability but its basic management theory. A business should have both short term and long-term goals, the problem here is that when businesses invest, grow only with a short-term mindset, they get trapped on their own success, they keep investing and thinking that they are growing every quarter but in fact they lose focus on the long-term goals / vision. This would either stagnate the company and operate as it is without any significant growth or have a slow death. And on the other hand its dangerous to have extremely optimistic long term goals without short term financial wins, this is where you see very optimistic “we are here to save mankind” kind of startups run out of juice within a couple of years, so yet again it has to have a balance and the long term vision of a modern day company is to not just have a financial goal to become a million or billion dollar market cap or valuation, that’s kind of old school mindset but to have a more impactful goal which would have a larger impact on society and on earth. Just imagine in another 100–200 years if our next generation would not be able to even step out to breath clean air (I wish this would never happen) then would all this so called “high tech” innovations and trillion-dollar fortunes created, would it be of any use to anyone?
A purpose driven business must operate in a different way
As mentioned previously a sustainability focus driven business needs to operate two steps ahead which means they need to have a long-term focus, it needs to be partnership oriented, which means it needs to be open to partners who have expertise in other areas and have common goals and vision and most importantly it needs to be human centric and have empathy. Most old school businesses treat their employees as just data points in a spreadsheet.
“Disruption is the watchword in business today. With technology changing at hyper speed, corporations may struggle to build a foundation for long-term success. Traditionally, organizations have emphasized how much revenue they create and how many expenses they cut. With the challenges facing society today, that simple focus is no longer sustainable.” — Forbes
Why Sustainability is important now than ever before?
For some who read this might think ok this is a bit over exaggerating or making the issue a bit too dramatic, well the numbers do not lie so let’s check some of them.
Climate change is real! It is happening as we speak.
Taken from climate.nasa.gov
Visit : https://climate.nasa.gov/ and you will see how much damage we have done and where things are headed to if we don’t act and turn this around
We live in a world where even primary basic level healthcare is accessible to only the fortunate and the rich.
These are only a glimpse of the issues out there.
Now let’s look at some of the trends in sustainability driven innovation and technology startups
There is a popular saying that china has all the data, the US has all the money, but the EU has purpose. Statistics shows that in European businesses, startups and corporates have a powerful differentiator, it shows that European Tech startups are not just aiming for the commercial benefits, but they are trying to solve the world’s largest problems.
All the stats were taken out of the below survey. This report was produced in partnership with Slush and Orrick. Over 70 people and over 20 companies and organizations came together to provide insights and data.
So, as you can see the shift is slowly happening, and it’s happening for a bigger cause for the entire human race.
I personally believe that at present most of the big companies, investors, and tech entrepreneurs are focusing on building cutting edge innovations and technology that would result in helping other businesses in increasing their profits or cutting down cost by 5–10% (let us just take this number as an example). But seriously? All this hype just to solve that? Haven’t we done that before? this is clearly the problem here, our leaders and corporates need to shift the focus and look at the real problems, they need to take bold decisions they need to take risks, if the big corporates and the leaders pretend like they do not see these problems and don’t throw the money to the right places then of course this will always be fairy tales.
Purpose driven employees
None of these goals or innovations can be accomplished if you do not have the right talent and the motivated & passionate mindsets. That is why your employees will be the biggest assets to transform or build a purpose driven organization or innovation.
According to KPMG
“Employees are increasingly motivated to stay with a company, and even refer peers, if they believe the work they do contributes to a bigger purpose.”
Matt Campbell, Managing Director, People & Change, KPMG
And also, it further states that creating a working environment where employees feel that their job is more than just a paycheck can provide companies and number of benefits. Some are intangible such as an enhanced reputation in the market as being good place to work and other can be directly related to the bottom line.
Stats shows that Millennials are the most charitable generations in history. This trend offers an organization a unique opportunity to refocus on their employer brand so that it articulates a social mission that not only differentiate themselves from competitors but also aligns with candidates seeking a cause. When organizations prioritize purpose over paychecks, they appeal to candidates who are committed, intrinsically motivates and show greater passion for a bigger cause in their work.
The purpose of this blog is to not to exaggerate the current problems we have but it is to create a sense of urge and importance on why we need to refocus and shift gears on what we have been doing for decades, the stats are proving that we all have been focusing on the wrong problems for many years and the investments as well. In a nutshell the future of businesses and companies are not going to be spreadsheet driven, it has been proven by Elon musk and other modern-day entrepreneurs that are successful by trying to solve real world problems. The moto here is to make wealth by having a bigger social cause and re using that wealth for the betterment of the humankind and the earth.