It’s time for another look at the little word which allows innovation to pack a big punch. Purpose.

Last time I talked about the word innovation in a way that peeled back the layers of hyperbole surrounding it, to reveal one of its core components – change.

But there’s another layer to the innovation onion. And it’s communication.

This one is integral to how change is managed, and again we need to be clear that managing change in this context isn’t about rigid top-down enforcement – it’s about allowing, inspiring and empowering people at the grassroots level to own the changes that they see fit to deliver value to their colleagues and customers.

And what makes it easier to communicate and get people to support change? Or buy into your innovation?

Yes, you guessed right. Purpose. 

There is two key reasons purpose is important to communication:

1: Appealing to early adopters 

An innovation needs to be appealing to early adopters who will help sway the majority to adopt your product or service or embrace the change you’re looking to make in an organisation.  

And how do you appeal to these early adopters? You talk about the why; you share your beliefs, and you connect with them on an emotional level. Early adopters are most likely to listen to and trust their intuition. If they feel the same way, you feel about something they’re more liable to act on the feeling as opposed to the early and late majority and the laggards who wait for something to be adopted by the more adventurous and gut-driven members of society, until they adopt an innovation. 

2: Resilience

I think anyone would agree with me when I say that one of the hardest things as an innovator is remaining resilient as you tell your story to people who just don’t get it and may never will.  Especially if your idea comes from the heart and stems from personal experience. But the stronger your connection is to the idea you’re sharing – be it a new business or a meaningful change within an organisation –  the more likely it is that you’ll persevere and continue talking. That connection will be as high as the purpose driving you. 

The recent Universal Design Grand Challenge competition, which was held in Dublin, demonstrated another important function of purpose – its use as a storytelling device in pitching innovative ideas.

The winning team was PNP Analytics. I coached them as part of the Purpose Pitch Program that I delivered for the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in the run up to the pitches. 

“Christopher Reeve, a man synonymous with having super powers, didn’t die from the horse riding injury that left him paralysed, he died because of complications arising from a pressure sore.”

Comprised of students from UCD’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, PNP Analytics used the example of the man who played Superman, Christopher Reeve, to reveal how important they believed their solution was in dealing with the problem of pressure sores.  

Though they didn’t have direct experience of this problem, they used a story which most of us are familiar with, to highlight the problem of efficiently managing pressure sores. The story was that Christopher Reeve, a man synonymous with having super powers, didn’t die from the horse riding injury that left him paralysed, he died because of complications arising from a pressure sore. 

They spoke about how they believed it was time for an innovative solution to the problem.  

Purpose statements provide the same function as a business’s mission statement. It guides everything they do.”

Engineers often focus on the technicalities of their product or design – the what and how – and can lose sight of the why, because their interest guides them towards the more technical aspects of their ideas. This is apparently critical regarding creating a product that works. However, less so in the communication of that product. Purpose makes a good starting point for a story, and a compelling story is the cornerstone of most successful endeavors.

Intrapreneur’s Squad

At the Intrapreneur’s Squad in BOI Workbench, I present the economic case for purpose fueled innovation. I give attendees the opportunity to create their purpose statement; this will help them articulate their goals in any scenario – interviews; presenting new ideas at work; pitching solutions in competitions; communicating potentially conflict-inducing initiatives at work.

Purpose economy3

Purpose statements provide the same function as a business’s mission statement. It guides everything they do, ensuring the vision remains a fixed point in the distance; a beacon of great things to come. 

Article by Janice Valentine.