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In a few short weeks, we have entered a crisis unlike anything most of us have ever seen. People are getting sick, our lifestyle is collapsing radically, and the economy is tanking. Current COVID-19 pandemic is teaching us an important lesson: we need to see the problem as a systemic failure and understand the way how the individual, social and economical dimensions of our system interact and are interdependent with each other. This crisis, together with climate change, overexploitation of natural resources or social inequalities, are clear evidences that we are enmeshed within a global web of interlinked ecological, social and economic issues. Therefore, to keep the game going, business world must be part of the solution in a much broader sense than purely economic development. But, what will the new normal of business be like?

Obviously, technology will continues to resolve problems and create value, but companies should go beyond driving profitability by creating singular, scalable and sustainable value for society as a whole. If we see positively the glass as half-full, this crisis is nothing short of a major opportunity to redefine the fundamentals of business around the great purpose of making a positive difference in people’s lives. Today more than ever we must heed Sir Richard Bransons’ words that “A business is simply an idea that will improve people’s lives and hopefully, some money will come out of it.” It’s a historic opportunity to innovate around new definitions of value, so business transformation will switch from digital to purpose. In the new normal of business, companies will thrive only if they have positive impact in the economical, social, and environmental systems they participate in. In a nutshell, henceforth, purpose will matter most.

Companies with a strong sense of purpose become the best version of themselves because people become better by changing. A singular purpose is the best ingredient to energize and motivate any organization in order to cope with the the systematic change that the new normal of business will demand. It’s the North Star to reimagine the potential of any organization and reconnect their people with the mission of changing the world for the better. Purpose reflects something truly aspirational and gives people a strong sense of meaning and transcendence. Therefore, purpose should articulate the company’s inherent reason for being and its ultimate ambition for singular, scalable and sustainable success.

Purpose - Are you laying bricks or building a cathedral by Jose Cantera

In the new normal of business, purpose must be treated as a core driver of strategy and decision-making because purpose led companies show greater ability to drive successful innovation and systemic change. They ensure that this purpose is understood and embraced by all stakeholders such employees, customers, partners and investors alike. Organisations with a clear purpose are able to hire and retain the best employees, to attract and engage customers, and to achieve higher returns for shareholders.

In fact, most iconic value hackers are well known for their singular intents, typically crystallized in bold purpose statements that reflect the aspirations of new philosophy of doing business that, objectively speaking, is shaping the future of the human experience. For example, Apple is trying to enrich people’s lives in all the ways people want to experience, Google is trying to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible, Amazon is trying to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and Microsoft is trying to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

Even institutional investors are discovering the power of purpose and expect that a company’s contribution to society should go beyond its financial performance. For example, BlackRock, the world’s largest institutional investor with about $6 trillion in assets, encourages companies to not only deliver financial performance, but also show how to make a positive contribution to society: “Ultimately, purpose is the engine of long-term profitability“.

In the new normal of business, economic return will be a by-product of successful problem solving. Any company has the potential to change the future of human life for the better, from products and services that improve the daily life for billions of people, to breakthrough solutions that solve wicked, global problems like climate change and chronic disease. From that moment begins a new era when performance will be judged by how a company and its leadership serve everyone and fulfil a higher purpose much bigger than themselves, so essential it can transcend successive changes and generations.