The Purpose Economy

Summary Written by Jill Donahue
"At the core of the Purpose Economy is people’s need and desire to find their own professional purpose."

- The Purpose Economy, page 7

The Big Idea

Welcome to the Purpose Economy

"Much like technology a few decades ago, purpose has now become a business imperative."- The Purpose Economy, page 21

Hurst believes we are in the early days of the emergence of the fourth American economy. I loved the cartoon he created to summarize thousands of years of history. Here is the text version.

Humankind began as cavemen, wandering the wild with our families. We were nomadic hunter-gatherers. Life was tough. Food was scarce and the wilderness was dangerous.

Eventually we figured out how to grow our own food and even sell the extra we reaped. Possessing land brought power. We entered the Agarian Economy.

Machines were invented! This gave rise to cities and work in factories. The Industrial Economy was born. Workers punched the time clock and life became more comfortable with steady work and food on the table. The work, however, was often dangerous not just to the workers but the machines were destroying the environment.

Then machines were invented that enabled us to work with our minds, not just our bodies in the Information Economy. But we lost something in that process. We began to lose connection with each other and the planet.

People began searching for purpose in their lives. They longed for meaning and connection. Welcome to the Purpose Economy. The same technologies that disconnected us are now being used to enrich our lives and bring purpose.

It makes complete sense, doesn’t it? As society evolves and more of our needs are met, we move up Maslow’s hierarchy toward self-actualization.

The Purpose Economy is based on the fact that when people serve needs greater than their own, when they enable personal growth and build community, value is created. So by doing good, people and organizations do well!

Insight #1

Is purpose really that important?

"In today’s world, running an organization without an intentional emphasis on purpose for employees and customers is like running an organization in the early 1990s and failing to implement technology."- The Purpose Economy, page 22

Aaron predicts that in 20 years, the pursuit of purpose will eclipse the Information Economy.

If you are the type of person, who, like Wayne Gretzky, “skates to where the puck is going to be instead of where it has been” then take heed. Look around you. Think about where we stand in history today: our current culture, values, education, technological abilities, social organizations, political realities and the state of our natural environment.

The public is changing their priorities and their desire is changing what we buy, how we buy it, from whom we buy it, why we buy it and how much of it we buy. Open any news source or check out the bestseller lists and you’ll find evidence of the change in priorities. There is shift from “business” to “business and society”.

For example, Harvard professor and corporate strategist Michael Porter launched the “Social Progress Imperative”, a global index that strives to look beyond gross domestic product and provides a ranking of countries, based on how well they are meeting social and environmental needs of their citizens. It is one of many similar initiatives. In Canada, former Rotman School of Management Dean, Roger Martin, launched the Martin Prosperity Institute. It was designed to bring a business focus to the development of policy and a new way of thinking about economic growth.

I’ve been working for the last decade trying to help the pharma industry serve differently, with more purpose, by focusing on the patient. Hurst’s insights show me that the people in our industry are not only ready to be purpose driven, but if they want to survive, they better figure it out fast! In fact, according to eyeforpharma’s 2014 Healthcheck survey, 81% of pharma leaders believe this is the path to future profitability. Purpose is where the puck is going.

Join our newsletter

Sign up for the very best book summaries right to your inbox.
We care about your data in our privacy policy.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Insight #2

How do we gain purpose? Myth Busting

"TRUTH: Purpose isn’t a cause; it is an approach to work and serving others. Purpose is a verb, not a noun."- The Purpose Economy, page 101

People gain purpose when they:

1. Grow personally
2. Establish meaningful relationships
3. Serve and contribute to something greater than themselves

So how do you maximize purpose in your job? Realize that not everyone derives purpose from the same things. Then bust the myths that Hollywood has propagated. Most of the stories we see on screen give us a romanticized version of the role of purpose in our work. They create myths that make it hard for us to focus on the simple truths about purpose.

What if I told you that I know a bus driver who demonstrates more purpose and derives more satisfaction from his work than some doctors. Huh? That’s because you can find purpose in any job. It’s all about how you approach it!

For many people, seeking purpose is about finding a direction, not a destination. It is more about the journey. The satisfaction you derive from your work has more to do with you than the work itself. Do you choose to see your job as a challenging and rewarding journey?

Here are the top 5 myths about purpose:

Myth #1: Purpose is a cause.
Truth: Purpose isn’t a cause; it’s an approach to work and serving others. Think of it as a verb, not a noun.

Myth #2: Purpose is a luxury that only the rich can afford.
Truth: Purpose is a universal need, not a luxury for those with financial status.

Myth: #3: Purpose will reveal itself.
Truth: Purpose is a journey. It doesn’t ‘hit us’ like a revelation but rather comes from living life awake and seeking new experiences.

Myth #4: Purpose is derived only from some work.
You can find purpose in any job. It’s all how you approach it.

Myth #5: Purpose is easy!
Purpose requires giving of yourself. It will inspire and drive you to push out of your comfort zone.

On a personal note, in my passion to help lift pharma I get frustrated when I feel things are moving too slowly. Hurst reminds me to focus on the satisfaction in the daily pursuit of that passion. And that feels good.

Read the book

Get The Purpose Economy on Amazon.

Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is an award-winning entrepreneur and globally recognized leader in the fields of purpose at work and social innovation.

Subscribe to digest
Read about our privacy policy.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.