REI is an outdoor recreation company based in Seattle. Their mission orbits around this statement, “being outside makes our lives better.” In 2015, their CEO announced that they would close their 143 stores on Black Friday, the biggest retail day of the year. He indicated that the company would pay employees for the day, and he invited customers to also spend the day outside. This, of course, is economic madness. You do not close all your stores and pay your employees to not work on the busiest day of the year.
Yet there were some gains. REI had a 10% increase in online traffic on Thanksgiving and 26% increase on Black Friday. Customers were apparently more interested in the company and they were spending longer on the website. REI was becoming better known as a company worth dealing with. I doubt, however, that the increase in online traffic or image was the objective of the decision. I believe the real objective was to get people outside.
In a company that has an authentic higher purpose, all decisions are arbitrated by the purpose. This leads the company to principle driven, rather than expedient, decisions. The organization therefore does hard things and doing hard things leads to new internal and external capacities.
Internally the employees get value beyond the paycheck. In an organization of higher purpose, the culture is proactive rather than reactive. So there is more confidence and less fear. Employees have a clearer vision of what drives decisions and this clarity allows them to make their own courageous decisions at the lowest levels. In such an organization there is more understanding, trust, commitment, engagement, collaboration and learning. It is an empowering environment.
Externally, customers begin to see the company as operating beyond conventional logic. This creates interest, exploration, and learning. Customers perceive they are obtaining added value by dealing with a company of authentic leadership, authentic employees, authentic brand and authentic products.
Purpose driven organizations have to deliver the same basics as others, yet they do so in a different way. An organization with an authentic culture is attractive to employees, customers and suppliers. Resources flow to the attractive culture.
- What is the highest purpose of your unit?
- What authentic decisions have differentiated your unit from others?
- How authentic is your culture and what unique resources are attracted?
- How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?