Discussing the question of individual and company purpose alignment at the Meetup, we took a few steps back and our participants questioned the necessity of purpose as a driving force of life and its importance in engaging employees at work.


Purpose and the Maslow Pyramid of basic needs

Some of our participants regarded purpose as a luxury, a privilege of wealthier societies. Nowadays in the western world at least, people have basic economic stability. This allows them - in contrast to previous generations whose main necessity was to earn a living, to look beyond making money and search instead for meaning in life, for a higher purpose. This approach is in alignment with Maslow’s Pyramid of basic needs. It was mentioned during our discussion at the Meetup as well. According to the Maslow Pyramid of basic needs, people’s physiological need has to be satisfied first. Basically, if people don’t have enough money to eat, they won’t be able to search for a higher purpose in life. They won't seek self-actualization, which is on the top of the pyramid. If people’s financial needs are a burden and thus limiting their potential to become self-actualized, the fulfillment of their psychological needs (the so-called ‘belongingness and love needs’, the state of intimate relationships) is more of a challenge. Even in more ‘privileged’ western societies, individuals with difficult family backgrounds or people who feel lonely and disconnected are less able to seek a higher purpose.

Being content has nothing to do with Maslow

This issue came up in a company that had many tensions because they could not support themselves financially. They had to look for other jobs and could not live their purpose. However, the assumption that being at a lower level of needs fulfillment cannot let you transcend the other levels, was heavily debated. Some claimed that self-actualization was not possible without fulfilling all the needs while others argued that attitude is more important than need. For example, people in poor countries don’t complain about their poverty, but can still live a very fulfilling life. Can we actually skip to the top of the pyramid without fulfilling all the needs in-between? It is a very interesting question, which unfortunately remains unresolved at the Meetup.

Life is constantly changing and therefore our purpose changes as well

Our participants also acknowledged the fact that purpose is strongly influenced by individuals’ origin, cultural background and education. In the case of the latter, both school systems, as well as the school of life, have a strong impact on purpose. Traveling, encountering different cultures, people we meet throughout life, all influence our worldviews, form our personalities and thereby our purpose.

As we mentioned in a previous post ‘What is Teal and is it for me’ a Teal organization is ever changing and so is its purpose. There is one sure thing in life, which is change. Nature changes, we change and therefore our purpose, as does the purpose of organizations. This is why we should regularly reflect upon our personal mission and verify that it still matches the organizational purpose. If not, then it is time to move on.

The drive towards a higher purpose is also influenced by individual character. Some people cannot be motivated if they don’t see a higher purpose in what they are doing while others like the job or the financial compensation and may not be that preoccupied with the evolutionary purpose of their organization. For example, programmers might be very enthusiastic about technology and would not question the purpose of the organization.

Along with this discussion, a few other questions were raised by the participants. For example: “Does life have to be purpose-driven?”, “Is purpose and meaning the same?”, is “Is purpose and mission the same?” All of these are huge, partly philosophical questions; therefore, we didn’t have a conclusion on these points at the Meetup. The purpose vs meaning question is also debated by academia and there has not yet been a clear answer defined. Therefore, we also don’t attempt to answer these questions in this handbook.

There is no purpose match without a quest

However, regardless of the discussion, it is important to emphasize that finding and reflecting on one’s purpose is a question of personal-development and which is of significant importance to teams practicing self-organization. You have to have a clear picture of your own purpose to be able to commit to a Teal organization with a matching purpose. Usually, before individuals decide on joining a self-organizing team, they make a ‘purpose-quest’ journey. Once you are clear about your own purpose, you can find an organization which matches yours. Being clear about what you want will help you to notice any discrepancies between your and your organization's purpose. For individuals working in self-organizing contexts, the purpose is a number one priority. Therefore, when they notice that their personal purpose no longer fits the organization’s, they are likely to move on. As we mentioned earlier, in reacting to a need in the world, organizations are able to shift focus and therefore their purpose. This is also the reason that if you are aware of your own purpose, discrepancies can be more easily noticed.

In conclusion, we can say that for those living a purpose-driven life, a focus on self-development and awareness of their purpose will be key to keeping themselves motivated. In addition, they need to make sure they work in an organization which is in harmony with their personal purpose.

How about you? Is your purpose aligned with your company's purpose? Do you think at all that it's important? We are happy to read your comments, thoughts, remarks below.

If you want to discuss future of work-related topics, visit our bimonthly Meetup. Next Meetup is coming up soon, on June 6th in Vienna where we will talk about remote teams and location flexibility. Hope to see you there.

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