Embrace Your Inner Hedgehog, Find Your Purpose

Alexandra Levit, Managing Partner, PeopleResults
All Posts

At the SilkRoad annual Connections conference in Chicago in May, I heard a great session on driving a purpose-driven culture by Stacie Mallen.

Stacie is a VP of HR for Ulthera, Inc., a manufacturer of a device that is used for non-invasive, non-surgical lifting and tightening of the skin.

Stacie started the session by handing out hedgehogs (stuffed, not real).  She wanted us audience members to think about our purpose in work and life, illustrating what is known as the Hedgehog Concept in Jim Collins’ Good to Great.

Collins told the story of the clever, devious fox and the simple hedgehog.  The wily fox keeps coming up with new ideas to eat the hedgehog, but the hedgehog beats the fox every time by doing his one trick: curling up into a thorny ball. The hedgehog knows what it does really, really well.  It keeps doing it and keeps winning.

I earned a toy hedgehog in the session when I expressed my true purpose as providing concrete guidance to others based on my own work experiences.  I do this well, and I’m most successful when I don’t stray too far from it.

Finding Your True Purpose

Your true purpose is found at the intersection of three things:

  • What you are deeply passionate about
  • What you can be the best in the world at
  • What drives your economic engine

In instructing us how to find purpose – both for ourselves and our organizations – Stacie cited the work of Roy Spence, author of the bestselling book, It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What Your Stand For.  Spence has helped organizations such as Southwest Airlines, BMW, the University of Texas, Wal-Mart, and the Clinton Global Initiative achieve greatness by obsessing about purpose. Southwest Airlines, for example, worked hard not just to lure customers away from older airlines but to also offer affordable air travel, democratizing the skies. Likewise, Wal-Mart brought goods that were once distant luxuries to rural families.

Spence wrote:  “Purpose is a reason for being that goes beyond making money, and it almost always results in making more money than you ever thought possible.  Especially during times of great economic uncertainty, purpose is the key to creating and maintaining a high- performing organization, deserving just as much attention as strategy, execution, and innovation.”

Stacie shared the following steps for taking action on the organization side:

  • Review your organization’s heritage
  • Consider false starts
  • Contrast successes and failures
  • Ask why your company is focused on certain initiatives
  • Talk to your employees and other internal constituents
  • Engage executives and top performers in the conversation
  • Listen to your customers

One of Stacie’s main ideas was that culture is closely tied to purpose and that it’s necessary to properly audit and assess your organization’s culture as part of your purpose exploration.  So in my post next month, I’ll discuss the mechanics of uncovering what your organizational culture is really about.

Previous Post

Share this Post: