Serve a Social Purpose

The letter BlackRock’s Larry Fink sent CEOs highlights ideas that are familiar to our readers. Here’s the insight:

“Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.”

But here is the twist, if you want to improve the organization, you have to develop yourself.

Chief executives invest an average of 30 minutes in personal development each day. The goal is to lift the organization; this is the drive of relatedness, or what authors like Dan Pink and Tony Hsieh have called purpose.

This universal need to connect and care for others doesn’t just motivate individuals—it translates to bottom-line profits too.

Wharton organizational psychologist Adam Grant ran an experiment with call center employees who were tasked with calling people to ask for donations. He randomly separated them into three groups. Each group had the same conditions except for a five-minute story each group read before their shift.

The first group read stories from other call center agents about how their job helped teach them transferable sales skills (a personal benefit).

The second group read stories from university alumni who benefitted from the donations raised by the call center and how the scholarships helped them (a purpose that connected the agents with something greater than themselves).

The third group read stories that had nothing to do with personal gain or purpose (the control group).

Grant couldn’t believe the results of this study.

He replicated it five more times to be sure: while the personal benefit group showed no change in their performance, the purpose group more than doubled their dollars raised.

The call center employees in the purpose group couldn’t identify what exactly was driving their behavior.

They merely doubled their productivity!

Could helping others and making a difference in people’s lives be a factor in motivating people to higher performance?

It certainly appears so.

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