Understand the Economics of Higher Purpose

When employees are disengaged and underperforming, the reaction of many managers is to try new incentives and ratchet up oversight and control. Yet often nothing improves. Why? Because the assumption behind such conventional approaches is that work is fundamentally contractual and that employees are self-interested agents who will seek to minimize personal effort. And that assumption becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: Employees do just what is needed to earn a reward or meet a standard, and nothing more.

But there is another way. Rally the organization behind an authentic higher purpose—an aspirational mission that explains how employees are making a difference and gives them a sense of meaning. If you do that, they will try new things, move into deep learning, and make surprising contributions. The workforce will become energized and committed, and performance will climb.

Anjan Thakor and Robert E. Quinn have authored a book called The Economics of Higher Purpose, as well as this cover article for HBR. This article was met with greater interest than they anticipated, which led them to the creation of a one-day workshop tailored to two unique audiences.  First, for the individual who wants to explore and apply higher purpose to their own life, leadership and organization.  Second, as an in-house offering for organizations or workgroups that want to unify around the creation of a higher purpose and explore the process and strategy of implementing it.

Learn more about both offerings below.

Option 1

Bringing Meaning to Your Life, Leadership and Organization

Join a group of like-minded individuals in exploring and applying the notion of higher purpose in your life, leadership and organization.

Step 1: Setting the Stage

We will explore the power of purpose in the lives of individuals and organizations. We will discuss the conventional managerial mindset and the alternative mindset of purpose driven leaders. We will consider relevant research on these topics. We will engage in an exercise in which we explore implicit theories of social excellence and we will envision a purpose-driven organization.

Step 2: Discovering Purpose

We will review strategies for discovering purpose in organizations. We will then engage in an exercise in which each member of the workgroup will share observations from pre-work interviews they have done with a small number of employees and customers. The group will then share what they learned and co-create a strategy for discovering the purpose of the company.

Step 3: Authenticity & Constancy in Communication

In this session we will explore how to ensure that a purpose statement is authentic and can become the arbiter of all decisions. The workgroup will break into subgroups and discuss one of several abbreviated case studies. Each group will make a presentation on the role of authenticity and constancy in the communication of higher purpose, and how this can be achieved in our organization. The output of the subgroups will be integrated.

Step 4: Imbuing the Organization with Purpose

Higher purpose creates meaning and engagement. An organization does not have a higher purpose if mid-level professionals and first level employees fail to understand, accept and internalize the purpose. Here the workgroup will review and search for insights in four abbreviated cases of implementation. The group will then share what they learned and co-create a strategy for imbuing the company with a higher purpose.

Option 2

The Economics of Higher Purpose: An In-House Workshop for Teams Charged with Creating an Organization of Higher Purpose

As an organization or workgroup, explore the notion of higher purpose and create a statement of higher purpose. Learn how to implement an agreed upon strategy for imbuing the organization with purpose.

Step 1: The Economics of Higher Purpose

Professional life reflects the assumptions of Economics. The underlying orientation is more oriented to survival than to flourishing. Having a higher purpose changes how we see, feel, think and act. Drawing on the most recent research, participants will explore the Economics of Higher Purpose. They will engage in an exercise that opens the mind to new views and possibilities.

Step 2: Becoming a Purpose-Driven Person

At the personal level knowing one’s life mission is a source of power. Drawing on research from the psychology of higher purpose, participants will explore new thinking. They will engage in an exercise designed to the discovery of one’s life purpose.

Step 3: Becoming a Purpose-Driven Leader

We will examine how to become purpose driven leaders who can turn any situation positive. The group will engage in an exercise that provides practice in entering the fundamental state of leadership. (operating at a higher level of influence) Participants will also practice how to invite others to join in purpose driven networks.

Step 4: Creating a Purpose-Driven Organization

In this segment participants will examine the research that provides the business case for higher purpose. The group will join in an exploration of eight counter-intuitive principles for creating a purpose driven organization or group. The group will explore how to take the principles to any team or organization.

Who We Are

Anjan Thakor holds the John E. Simon Professorship of Finance at Washington University in St. Louis. He is Director of the Olin Business School’s PhD program, and Director of the WFA Center for Finance and Accounting Research. Anjan’s research interests focus on banking, information economics, and corporate finance. His current research focuses on financial stability, bank capital, innovation, culture and the economics of higher purpose. In an article published in 2008, he was identified as the fourth most prolific researcher in the world in Finance over the past 50 years based on publications in the top seven Finance journals over that time. In another paper published in 2017, he was listed as one of the five-most prolific Finance authors in the world during 2005–15. Anjan has won numerous teaching awards. He is actively involved in corporate consultancy and expert witness work, including extensive work in corporate finance and banking. He is a frequent speaker at corporate events and has helped various types of organizations, including numerous Fortune 500 firms, navigate the complexities of financing, capital investment, and performance evaluation for strategic decision-making.

Robert E. Quinn is the Margaret Elliot Tracy Collegiate Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan, Ross School of Business. His research and writing focuses on purpose, leadership, culture and change. He is one of the co-founders and of the field of Positive Organizational Scholarship and a co-founder of the Center for Positive Organizations. Quinn has published 18 books. His volume, Deep Change is a long-term best seller. His book, The Best Teacher in You won the Ben Franklin Award designating it the best book in education. His latest book is The Positive Organization: Breaking Free of Conventional Cultures, Constraints and Beliefs. In 2019 he will publish, The Economics of Higher Purpose: Eight Counter Intuitive Steps for Creating a Purpose Driven Organization. In terms of research, he is in the top 1% of professors cited in organizational behavior textbooks. Quinn is particularly known for his work on the competing values framework which has been used by thousands of organizations. His paper, Moments of Greatness: Entering the Fundamental State of Leadership, was selected by the Harvard Business Review as one of the ten Must Reads On Managing Yourself. In terms of teaching and speaking, Quinn is the recipient of multiple teaching awards. In a global survey he was recently named one of the top speakers in the world on the topic of organizational culture and related issues. His recent talk on purpose went viral and has been viewed by over 15 million people.