Ranjay Gulati, Harvard Business School: Finding Deep Purpose

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Companies love to tout their purpose. They come up with a grandiose purpose statement, include it in their advertising, and paint it across their walls. But, when you look closely, there’s a lot of confusion about what purpose really means and what value it actually serves. Is a company’s purpose only about profit? Or, is it anything but profit? Perhaps purpose and profit should work in harmony to create a win-win? “The word ‘purpose’ has been hijacked,” says Harvard Business School professor Ranjay Gulati. He recently conducted extensive field research, interviewing leaders of some of the world’s most successful organizations to fundamentally understand what it means to operate from a place of purpose — or a reason for being. The culmination of his research is his latest book, Deep Purpose: The Heart and Soul of High-Performance Companies. Ranjay joins the podcast to explain what it means to be a “deep purpose” company. He describes what we can learn from leaders who get purpose right — and use it as a North Star to guide and elevate an organization’s people, productivity, and potential.

Listen to this episode to learn:

  • Why business (and life) without tradeoffs is an illusion
  • How purpose provides clarity on how to prioritize tradeoffs as well as the ability to make demands of company’s stakeholders
  • How leaders like Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella create a sense of purpose within their company to inform culture, organizational design, and people strategy
  • The opportunity for companies to help their employees (especially younger ones) discover coherence and connection between their purpose in life, career, and job — the “Holy Grail” of fulfillment
  • Why great companies look inside before they look outside — aiming to get a clear understanding of “who I am and why I’m here”
  • How NFL coach Pete Carroll unlocks “human potential,” and why all company leaders should strive to do the same with their employees