Creative purpose

1st June 2017

This blog is one in a series by Alice Ojeda on innovation and creative thinking in business

My theme this month, purpose, deviates from innovation in one sense, but from another perspective is the bedrock of anything we endeavour to do in our lives and any challenge we meet. After all, if we’re to pass all the thousand obstacles to solving a problem that matters, we need a deep sense of why it matters in the first place to ourselves.

A month ago I attended a brilliant event hosted by Dr Sue Mitchell from Women in Banking and Finance, ‘Motivation: Light your Fire and Inspire Others.’ It was about all that motivates you in life, be that learning, money, achievement or something else. This understanding is a key link to a sense of purpose because it’s the emotional response that rewards your pursuit of it.

A sense of purpose goes beyond that, though. Up to a point, life will always give you time-bound purposes. For example, students may feel the need to study hard or parents to bring up their children well. A longer-lasting purpose, though, is one you create yourself and can hold your decisions to throughout your life. Did you ever know the girl at school who always wanted to be a doctor and went on to achieve it? It seemed so simple for her.

I spoke to a colleague recently who gave me a whole new edge on this theme.

“Imagine yourself as at the centre of a circle. That’s where you need to be – with your purpose. Then, you can collaborate with other people as and when your purposes meet. It can be easy just to revolve around another’s circle, but you need to know why you’re there and what you’re doing.”

A purpose, I learned, doesn’t need to be original. This person’s was to do work that was good for the world. It’s very broad, but the way my colleague has interpreted it is unique to him and won’t be the same for anyone else. And, as he learns, he refines his purpose just a little over time.

Intrigued, I asked another colleague for her sense of purpose. Rather than focusing on what she does, this person takes a sense of achievement from how she does it. In everything, she seeks to make people think in a new way. That’s what keeps her going throughout her career.

And finally, a colleague my age. Her sense of purpose is her religion and a desire to build strong relationships with many people. She devotes time and effort to this both through her career and outside of it.

As Simon Sinek says, inspirational leaders should begin with the question ‘why?’ in setting the direction for a company. I’d suggest it is just as important for individuals, if not more so, to have a sense of purpose that makes you passionate about the work you do and the decisions you take. Purpose is broad, lifelong and in a constant state of refinement.

What are your thoughts on purpose? Has anyone ever given you a great piece of advice? Itching to innovate? Interface connects businesses and organisations to academic expertise in universities, research institutions and colleges for collaborative research and development. Contact 0845 013 0536 to speak to a Business Engagement team member in your region.