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The World's Most Successful Companies Pursue Mission Before Profit

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The World's Most Successful Companies Pursue Mission Before Profit

Anubhav Gupta

brilliant piece from Fast Company that's a must-read for anyone interested in responsible business. A departure from anything we tend we see in India's "CSR" space, it discusses how the world's most successful companies integrate a mission into the very core of their business.

That mission doesn't have to be an idealistic, social one. But it has to be something that people can rally around, a purpose to exist, a meaning behind the money. And more often than not that purpose tends to have some level of social, sustainable, or human basis.

Even Apple, the world's most valuable company, places more emphasis on mission than it does on money, at least judging by Tim Cook's rhetoric...

If you want me to make decisions that have a clear ROI," another renegade CEO declared at a public shareholder meeting earlier this year, "then you should get out of the stock, just to be plain and simple." A few months earlier, that same renegade had announced that his company was committed to "advancing humanity." He claimed that his frame for decision making was moral: "We do things because they're just and right." This emphasis on social goals over financial performance seems almost revolutionary—and yet the renegade is none other than Tim Cook of Apple, CEO of the most valuable company in the world.

Apart from sounding wonderfully modern and progressive (and being part of "Generation Flux", as Fast Comany has termed it), this pursuit of mission has an interesting impact on employee engagement and productivity too...

A more effective contract, he says, meshes an individual's sense of purpose with that of the company. The Gallup report notes that millennials, gen-Xers, and baby boomers consider "mission and purpose" a valuable motivator. As Daniel Pink eloquently explained in the book Drive, higher pay leads to better performance only for routine, repeatable tasks; for higher cognitive efforts and creative tasks, maximizing rewards actually hurts performance.

The article includes compelling examples from Chipotle, Google and Eileen Fisher amongst others, which really do compel one to think beyond the realms of old-fashioned CSR, towards a much more holistic responsible vision.

Will Indian CEOs be inspired by Fast Company's call to arms to find their mission? Will we start to see our own version of "Generation Flux" stepping into the light and changing the way business is done? One can only hope that our progressive CEOs are waiting in the shadows to unleash this way of thinking on to Indian industry. Well, hope is eternal after all.