If I have learned anything from my involvement in the Drexel Smart House (DSH), it’s that everybody needs a purpose, their slice of the pie, the way in which they contribute to their community’s betterment.*
An individual’s purpose was once easily identified: warriors, hunters, farmers, medicine men, blacksmiths, and shamans clearly contribute to the needs of the community. But what is the purpose of occupations that only arise from the creation of unnecessary complexity (bureaucracy)? Many jobs do not contribute to the betterment of one’s community; as a result, people feel less fulfilled, society has become more and more fragmented, and societal progress is slowing.
How can this knowledge be used for happier companies? DSH ensured every member knew their purpose, their contribution to the DSH vision, and further gave them ownership over their contributions. A concrete example of this orientation: job descriptions were framed in terms of expected outcomes which directly contribute to the overall vision, rather than responsibilities. Members have autonomy to achieve these outcomes however they wish, shaping and molding their activities to meet or exceed the stated outcomes.
These lessons can be applied in any organizational context. Companies are now being formed with a social purpose in addition to the profit agenda, and there’s a movement sweeping the business world in this direction.
Having learned these lessons the hard way, I’m now searching for thought leaders who have mapped this territory before me. I’ve added further reading below.
Do you know of any other relevant work in this area?
- Transformational Leadership
- Tony Hsieh’s Science of Happiness
- Daniel Pink’s Motivators: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose
* Contribution to one’s community is important. When Patrick T. Hoffman asked why I don’t renounce my possessions and go work for the poor in Africa, my answer was simple: that is not my community. It’s not that I “don’t care” about those in faraway lands, it’s just that those aren’t my friends and loved ones.