Regenerative Purpose

Companies exist not to provide solutions to consumers, but to facilitate the human experience. The decreasing life expectancy for corporations – which has dropped from a 20-year average in 1990 to a forecasted 14 years by 2026 – is indicative of the radical changes occurring throughout the world. S&P 500 also forecasts that 50% of its listed companies will be replaced over the next 10 years. Yet despite these changes, many organizations (especially legacy companies) remain static. Today more than ever, organizations need a regenerative purpose to lead them as they move into the next era. Only with such a purpose can they transcend the boundaries created by previously compartmentalized industries in order to reach humans in new and surprising ways.

We developed a new model for regenerative purpose, the Three Cs Model, which we derived from Simon Sinek’s concept of “the Golden Circle.” The Golden Circle has three layers: Why, How, and What. Sinek advocated for all organizations to start with Why – that is, the core belief of the business and the reason for its existence – before moving to How and What. We took this concept and deconstructed it in order to create an iterative and adaptive method a business could use to discover its regenerative purpose. Using this method would help an organization reach consumers from multiple industries, thereby diversifying risk while amplifying reach.

The Three Cs Model can be visualized as a solar system. The sun represents clarity, the planets represent context, and the planets’ moons represent content. In the model, like in our real solar system, the sun (clarity) is at the center: It has an immense gravitational pull that keeps the system’s planets (the organization’s content) orbiting around it. Using the Three Cs Model, the true purpose of a company can be discovered, and its underlying relationships can be explored. In completing this exploration, an organization can uncover the core human desire that leads its strategy – thus firmly anchoring clarity at the core of the organization’s “solar system.”

To determine its context, an organization must iteratively re-frame its purpose within the multiple spaces in which humans live. The goal is to understand how the organization’s products or services fit within people’s daily lives, as well as how these can help facilitate people’s lived experiences. There are three components the organization needs to understand in order to complete this reframing: the business’s capabilities, the current environment and opportunities, and future emergent signals. Being cognizant of such parts will allow the organization to discover potential “white spaces” that they can play in. It is through this iterative re-framing that the organization can create the greatest and most relevant value for its consumers, as this reframing sets the stage for consumers to fulfill their desires. Like the solar system, every “planet” in this system is unique, with its own atmosphere, geography, and species. However, they all share a common gravitational orbit (i.e. a dependence) on the system’s sun, clarity.

Lastly, content is the actual means by which an organization satisfies a core human need within the current and future context. This usually comes in the form of a product or service. Here, the moons in trajectory around their respective planets represent content; they are drawn in by the planets’ gravitational pull but are still in constant orbit around the sun, clarity.

The dynamism of a solar system – including the constant rotation of the planets and moons within it – showcases the need to continually iterate over time. At the same time, the discovery of new planets represents the uncovering of “white spaces” in which innovation lives and thrives. Ultimately, the organization’s true purpose, the sun, remains stationary, even though the means of achieving high-order human desires continues to evolve over time. Therefore, although the core of purpose may be static, it is regenerative in nature.

 Case Study: Amazon

Ecommerce giant Amazon practices this method, which enables the organization to play in multiple spaces. According to the company’s mission statement, Amazon wants “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company” and “to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” The heart of Amazon extends further, as the organization’s true purpose is to be a company for – and of – the people. Amazon fulfills this purpose by responding to people’s needs to belong and to have self-esteem – all while facilitating the experience of discovery through personalization, convenience, and cost.

Amazon also understands the current and future context; the organization knows that we are transitioning from the Information Age to the Experience Age, in which consumers hold most of the power. For this reason, Amazon consistently shifts its scope and reframes iteratively as it moves across adjacent industries, all while maintaining a deep focus on the varied needs of different sets of consumers. Instead of designing a tightly interlocked ecosystem (like those used by Apple or Google, for example), Amazon frames relevant and discrete services that resonate with its customers. The company then assesses how it can utilize and build its existing competencies to facilitate consumers’ ideal lived experiences. For instance, the organization leverages its “Chaotic Storage” technology, efficient tracking system, heartfelt customer service doctrine, and logistical skills to provide low-cost, efficient, and human-centric online shopping experiences. Amazon Web Services leverages its massive e-commerce infrastructure to help enterprises build sophisticated, flexible, and scalable applications without paying outrageous premiums.

The final content of Amazon’s strategy ultimately results in the creation of multiple services, like cloud computing (Amazon Web Services), video platforms (Twitch), home delivery services (AmazonFresh), or production houses (Amazon Studios). Each service and product falls in line with Amazon’s overall purpose: to be a company for, and of, the people. By offering cheaper, accessible, and user-focused experiences that put the consumer at the forefront, Amazon cultivates a relationship that drives strong loyalty and word-of-mouth promotion. The company’s clarity remains the same across its diverse portfolio, but its context and content are renewed as the organization moves horizontally across industries and vertically through time. This sustained regeneration of the organization’s purpose enables Amazon to venture off into space to continuously discover new planets and moons.

Organizations require much more than a static ingrained purpose. There is an unprecedented amount of change occurring in our world today, from inventions of new technologies to new ways of communicating, moving, working, and living. Due to this change, an increasing number of companies are being weighed down by the inertia of their strategy and purpose; as a result, they are losing relevance. Organizations must be responsive, adaptive, and iterative with their purposes while also ensuring their goals support humans in the lives they seek to live.

So, is your company ready to uncover new planets and moons, or will you be stranded on a solitary planet?

the author

Anita Lin

Anita Lin is an innovation analyst at Idea Couture.

the author

Corey Wu

Corey Wu is an innovation analyst at Idea Couture.