Creating Social Value Blog / Corporate Social Relevance

Redefining the Purpose of Business from the Inside Out

What if the purpose of business was redefined?  Who would redefine it?  How would it happen? And who cares?

Let’s start with “who cares.” With Gallup International Poll numbers still indicating that over 65% of all employees are disengaged; millennials not wanting to leave their purpose and values at the corporate door; and CEOs continuously challenged by their organizations’ inability to innovate quickly and relevantly, there is a clear need for change. But perhaps even more importantly, the inequities and societal dilemmas that exist around us desperately need addressing. There is a call for courageous leaders inside of successful companies to reflect on not just profits and quarterly earnings, but on profits, people, and the role of their enterprises in healing (not harming) the world we live in.

When organizations expand their purpose and measure with different calculations, we begin to see greater possibilities in a world that is more unpredictable than ever before. Social challenges become market opportunities and work for employees at all levels of the organization becomes more purposeful.

So who leads this expansion and redefinition? I believe it starts with the entrepreneur inside: leaders who want to positively disrupt the status quo because they believe things need to be better and need to be different. And though it may seem counter-intuitive to expect new results from the same team, in fact, who better than those that have helped create an organization’s success to start to act their way into a new way of thinking for better outcomes? This is what I call the cutting edge of common sense.

Earlier this year, the Babson community was honored to be in a conversation where we were able to not just witness, but fully participate in what this process of initiating change from the inside out looks like. Two of our Senior Fellows in Social Innovation, Nate Garvis and Tom Wiese (co-founders of Studio E), brought their client (a Fortune 50 company) to The Social Innovation Lab to explore a concept they call “Social Premium.” For those of you already thinking it…this is not CSR and it surely isn’t CSR 2.0. It’s a new value proposition; a unifying framework to explore languages and concepts that support the creation of social and economic value simultaneously as a competitive advantage.

In less than 48 hours, we engaged transparently with the Fortune 50’s senior leadership team, helping them begin to take actions that would signal this redefined purpose for their global brand. We explored the notion of initiating change through transformative actions not just transformative thinking. And we looked at how a team of teams inside the company could activate this transformation that would impact the experience of its customers, employees, investors, suppliers, and communities.

The experience was an immersion in the real world of what it takes to be a courageous leader inside of a large organization. This is a beginning. Our friends and their client came to Babson because of a belief that business has an untapped reservoir of social value. It is this commitment to incubating not only new business ideas, but new ways of thinking about business, that makes working at Babson so exciting. As we continually add new elements to further our thinking and teaching about what it takes to build businesses, we are fortunate to see firsthand and participate in dialogue around the purpose of business expanding and being redefined from the inside out.