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What Makes a Good Purpose: Authenticity Edition

At the final stage of uncovering and expressing a purpose statement, we need to evaluate and assess if the proposed statement is good. There is a general set of criteria to help us review purpose statements, and one of the often cited criteria is authenticity.

As the idea of authenticity is foreign to the Japanese language, in this post, let's dive deep and explore what it means for a purpose statement to be authentic.

What is Authenticity?

In English, the dictionary defines authenticity as follows:

  • worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact

  • conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features

  • made or done the same way as an original

  • not false or imitation: real, actual

  • true to one's own personality, spirit, or character

Authenticity is the attribute and quality of being real, genuine, or true.

The importance of authenticity

There is no doubt that authenticity is important in business. By establishing authenticity, its creates a connection of trust with its customers, which influences their purchase behavior and likeliness to recommend to others.

It is also essential when it comes to activating purpose in organizations. To form a movement in your organization around its purpose, a key requirement is that the purpose must be believable. If not, it's unlikely the purpose will transform into actions and be realized. In other words, when you have an authentic purpose, people in the organization will trust and believe it, and, therefore, embrace it in their work.

Authenticity has two dimensions

In Japanese, authenticity is sometimes referred to as "らしさ." However, the trouble with this translation is "らしさ" has a bias towards the appearance. Therefore, when we use "らしさ" to review purpose statements, we are mainly checking the purpose statement if its form stays true to the brand / company identity.

This is what I call "explicit authenticity." On the other hand, there is "implicit authenticity."

Let's take pizza as an example. Imagine an authentic pizza. You might consider a pizza with a thin and crispy crust with simple and minimal toppings so the ingredients could shine. But I think you will agree that is not the entire story. Who makes the pizza? How the pizza is made? This is what I refer to as implicit authenticity.

What does implicit authenticity mean in the context of reviewing purpose statements? It means we cannot fully assess a purpose statement by how it is expressed in terms of words. Sure, we need to review the statement to see if its true to identity in terms of the contents, the tone, and manner, but we also need to be aware of how the statement was uncovered and expressed. In other words, the people and the process behind the statements matter.

In the business book, The Heart of Business, former CEO of Best Buy, expresses this point nicely:

As discussed in chapter 6, Best Buy’s resurgence has a lot to do with defining the company’s purpose—to enrich lives through technology by addressing key human needs—and translating it into daily behaviors across the company. Best Buy’s purpose did not come from communication consultants dreaming up a clever formulation on a PowerPoint slide. It was developed organically, in part by observing who we were when we were at our best, as described earlier. This gives it genuine and deep-rooted authenticity.

( 書籍リンク:THE HEART OF BUSINESS(ハート・オブ・ビジネス)――「人とパーパス」を本気で大切にする新時代のリーダーシップユベール・ジョリー/dp/4862763227/ )


In summary, the key takeaways are:

  1. Check the expression of purpose statement for explicit authenticity.

  2. Build implicit authenticity by making sure the purpose is uncovered from inside. It must be driven by and deeply involve the people in the organization. Ultimately, when it comes to expressing purpose, the organization is in the driver seat and if the consultant comes on board, they are the guide and facilitator.


記事: Blog2_Post



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