Your Company’s Purpose Is Not Its Vision, Mission, or Values - Graham Kenny - Harvard Business Review

We hear more and more that organizations must have a compelling “purpose” — but what does that mean? Aren’t there already a host of labels out there that describe organizational direction? Do we need yet another?

I think we do, and I’ve pulled together a typology of sorts to help distinguish all these terms from one another.

A vision statement says what the organization wishes to be like in some years’ time. It’s usually drawn up by senior management, in an effort to take the thinking beyond day-to-day activity in a clear, memorable way. For instance, the Swedish company Ericsson (a global provider of communications equipment, software, and services) defines its vision as being “the prime driver in an all-communicating world.”

There’s also the mission, which describes what business the organization is in (and what it isn’t) both now and projecting into the future. Its aim is to provide focus for management and staff. A consulting firm might define its mission by the type of work it does, the clients it caters to, and the level of service it provides. For example: “We’re in the business of providing high-standard assistance on performance assessment to middle to senior managers in medium-to-large firms in the finance industry.”

Your Company’s Purpose Is Not Its Vision, Mission, or Values - Graham Kenny - Harvard Business Review

We hear more and more that organizations must have a compelling “purpose” — but what does that mean? Aren’t there already a host of labels out there that describe organizational direction? Do we need yet another?

I think we do, and I’ve pulled together a typology of sorts to help distinguish all these terms from one another.

A vision statement says what the organization wishes to be like in some years’ time. It’s usually drawn up by senior management, in an effort to take the thinking beyond day-to-day activity in a clear, memorable way. For instance, the Swedish company Ericsson (a global provider of communications equipment, software, and services) defines its vision as being “the prime driver in an all-communicating world.”

There’s also the mission, which describes what business the organization is in (and what it isn’t) both now and projecting into the future. Its aim is to provide focus for management and staff. A consulting firm might define its mission by the type of work it does, the clients it caters to, and the level of service it provides. For example: “We’re in the business of providing high-standard assistance on performance assessment to middle to senior managers in medium-to-large firms in the finance industry.”

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A self-organizing thousand-robot swarm | KurzweilAI

The first thousand-robot flash mob has assembled at Harvard University.

“Form a sea star shape,” directs a computer scientist, sending the command to 1,024 little bots simultaneously via an infrared light. The robots begin to blink at one another and then gradually arrange themselves into a five-pointed star. “Now form the letter K.”

The ‘K’ stands for Kilobots, the name given to these extremely simple robots, each just a few centimeters across, standing on three pin-like legs. Instead of one highly  complex robot, a “kilo” of robots collaborate, providing a simple platform for the enactment of complex behaviors.

A self-organizing thousand-robot swarm | KurzweilAI

The first thousand-robot flash mob has assembled at Harvard University.

“Form a sea star shape,” directs a computer scientist, sending the command to 1,024 little bots simultaneously via an infrared light. The robots begin to blink at one another and then gradually arrange themselves into a five-pointed star. “Now form the letter K.”

The ‘K’ stands for Kilobots, the name given to these extremely simple robots, each just a few centimeters across, standing on three pin-like legs. Instead of one highly complex robot, a “kilo” of robots collaborate, providing a simple platform for the enactment of complex behaviors.