I have not had much luck so far with figuring out what makes a good company purpose. However, I did spend the past few weeks thinking about what Phusion should stand for. One of the topics I have been researching a lot is technology ethics. Technology is not neutral: the creator's purpose and biases are inscribed onto it, and technology at scale can have unintended consequences on society. Therefore, as the creators of technology, we have a duty to make sure that our creations do the right thing and have the right effect on society. So reading through all the "inspirational" company purposes, I can't help but feel a certain amount of bullshit.
Facebook's purpose is to connect people, yet their actions show that their purpose is just a cover for advertising. The recent backlashes show that people are getting tired of their fake narrative.
Why did the Internet hate on Juicero? They say it's yet another an example of Silicon Valley building useless stuff for rich people in their bubble, but why are things like yachts and private jets not also hated on? The Spoon remarks that it's because Juicero widely proclaimed a "change the world" narrative, but they are being incongruent with what they actually do. A commenter responded:
"This change the world startup narrative is so f'n tired Dude - you're selling an expensive juicer tied to an app."
People aren't dumb, they poke through bullshit. All the startup/management advice about needing a purpose and starting with why aren't wrong, but they are simplistic and lack depth. They should only be used as a starting point. Tyler Bettilyon remarks that he/she (sorry Tyler, I cannot tell from your name and photo) too went through a stage in his twenties when the startup that he joined had fluffy cloudy aspirations to "bring people together with food". Now, in his thirties, he reflects on how bullshitty that actually was:
"You can’t just deliver food to companies full of wealthy hipsters and pretend you’re changing the world! Your organization makes the life of an office administrator marginally easier while facilitating the further gilding of the cages of San Francisco’s tech workers," I'm shouting from the future.
To be fair to the founder that he worked for, she was probably just too young and naïve and caught up in the Silicon Valley kool-aid bubble. That isn't a crime, but it is a lesson to be learned. If you define a company purpose then you better make sure that you know exactly what that means. Why is this purpose important? How exactly are you going to implement it? How do you ensure that your purpose is actually congruent with your purpose? And how do you make sure that the public accepts your narrative? Details matter.
So, I will be crafting a purpose and I make sure that we deliver on it. We may not "change the world" as in movies, but we will have a positive impact on the world because we work hard towards that goal.