How much difference did you make today? If you were to step back and look at that work, would you feel like you added real value to the world, or just kept things ticking over?
It’s easy to slip into doing the same old thing with your work, to take the safe options rather than rise to the challenge, to follow the aims set out for you by others.
Easy but not satisfying, and not the best that you could do for you or for the world around you.
Rising To The Challenge
If you want to make a difference, then you need to rise to the challenge, and the first step is identifying a challenge that’s worthwhile.
Look for a problem in the world around you, an absence or a failing, something that doesn’t just make you think but that makes you feel like there is a need for change. Tesla Motors has done this with its bold dedication to producing electric cars. Tesla identified a need for more environmentally friendly cars that are enjoyable to drive. It’s risen to that challenge, driving down the cost of eco-conscious living in the face of some huge difficulties.
Part of finding your challenge lies in recognizing that business does not exist in a vacuum. It is linked to wider social and environmental issues, and if we don’t support our world and society then it won’t support business. Find a purpose, a way for your business to have an impact, and set that as your goal.
This is about more than just leaping to the first, most obvious solution. Look deeply at the problem you’ve seen, whether it’s litter on the streets, an educational shortfall or any of the hundreds of other causes that fire people’s passions. Take a tip from the Toyota Production System and ask why things are the way they are, asking again and again until you get to the root of the problem.
Then look at the solutions offered and ask why they don’t work. Even chimps can look at the behavior of others around them and spot the flaws, finding a better way through. There’s no excuse for us not to.
If you already have an established business and are looking to transform it, then ask what harm social and environmental damage are doing to your business, and how you could do something to solve this. Show your employees and shareholders how the solution helps them.
Believe In Yourself, Believe In Better
Staying focused is vital to success. That’s as true in keeping to your purpose as it is in juggling your daily tasks. There will be times when the obstacles seem insurmountable, when flashy distractions and easy options might lure you away from your purpose. But if you believe in yourself, if you believe in your cause and your ability to make a change, then you can overcome anything.
Look again at Tesla Motors. Following the financial crisis the motor industry was in disarray. Even General Motors was filing for bankruptcy, and against this backdrop it was all but impossible to find funding for a relatively unknown car firm, especially one with such a radical and risky focus. But Tesla stuck with it, found funding, and has gone on to provide real innovation in the industry. By the first quarter of 2013 it was posting profits for the first time.
If you have a purpose that people value then they will come round to your cause. If you have a purpose that you value then you will be able to stick with it, even when the going gets tough.
Find your purpose. Live your impact. Make a difference, for you and for the world.
About the Author: Mark Lukens is a Founding Partner of Method3, a global management consulting firm. In addition, Mark currently serves as Chairman of the Board for Behavioral Health Service North, a large behavioral health services provider in New York, and on the faculty of the State University of New York (SUNY).