“When purpose is at the core of the obsession, it has the potential to change the world,” said Alain Sylvain, founder and CEO of strategy and design consultancy Sylvain, at Convening Leaders 2022. (Jacob Slaton Photography)
We’ve all seen or heard the purpose-driven taglines that have a “greater good” message — something that goes beyond the actual products and services of today’s most successful brands. For example, Airbnb aims to “create a world where anyone can belong,” while Tesla wants to “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” According to Alain Sylvain, founder and CEO of strategy and design consultancy Sylvain, the world has become a bit “drunk on purpose. There are all sorts of conferences and talks about purpose, there are all sorts of books and podcasts,” he said. “Purpose is candy.” In other words, sweet to consume, but just empty calories.
Sylvain, who presented the Convening Leaders 2022 session “Post-Purpose: Go Beyond Statements to Discover the Power of Obsession,” has become “bored” with the concept of these purpose statements because they can often feel hollow, he said. “So many companies are beating their chest and so many companies believe they deserve so much attention and respect because they have a purpose. And sometimes, I question, How real is that stuff? … The truth is that a lot of these companies haven’t really aligned their businesses with the causes that they talk about.”