Step 0: Getting Started Building a Purposeful Organization

by Ryan Cook

UPDATE See our follow-up post here

Based on the title, I'm already way out of my league. I've tried my hand at building organizations and failed for myriad reasons. During the most recent attempt (GridKick), now defunct, we had many discussions about having a stronger core purpose, but nothing ever really manifested. Now here I am trying again with Moshi Moshi Co. together with dojo4 and we're a few months in now. To get things kicked off in January, Corey and I retreated offsite to dream big and lay some groundwork, part of which was that we wanted to feel strongly about the purpose of our endeavor.

That still leaves us with quite the hanging question: what does purpose mean in this context? It means that at the core of our organization, people should feel motivated by the fact that their efforts are positively affecting at least one community outside of the company they work for. Having this unselfish aspect to work is beneficial for a lot of reasons. Other peoples' lives are (hopefully) improved/better, maybe without them even having knowledge of your product/company. You have stronger external validators demonstrating success.

I recently had a chance to delve deeper into these aspirations/intentions at StartingBloc here in Boulder. It was a great feeling to notice how well my hopes for Moshi Moshi Co. fit in with the mission for and archetypes of a StartingBloc fellow. The following things stood out to me as I contemplated Moshi Moshi Co.'s goals throughout the workshop:

  1. Write it down. Be explicit and transparent.
  2. Revisit often. Don't forget. Don't be afraid to change.
  3. Have allies. Be open to feedback. Have folks outside of your own echo chamber willing to offer support and criticism.
  4. Enable others. This has network effects.
  5. Utilize the resources you have. We're not currently a cash flush organization, so it makes more sense for us to leverage time vs. money.

Notice that none of these are specific to the topic of building purposeful organizations. In retrospect, they are generally applicable to most any endeavor.

One thing I've learned is that intention isn't enough to make Moshi Moshi Co. succeed at being a purposeful organization. We need to keep ourselves in check by making sure we're living up to the high bars we set for ourselves. If we were always dreaming, we'd never be doing. Something else I've been trying to keep in mind is that we as individuals don't need to have established any infrastructure at all to be empathetic or show our capacity for love. These are free and can do a lot of good a lot of the time.

As an organization though, we have opportunities to do good at a different scale, which is something I hope to explore more in the future. Lastly, if you're thinking about these types of issues, we want to hear from you. You're not alone and we'll be better together.