I believe we are in the 4th phase of the corporation: 1. in the 1920’s Alfred Sloan of General Motors created the modern corporation; 2. in the 1050’s Peter Drucker codified the discipline of management; 3. in the 1980s Japanese companies brought forth the concepts of team and quality; 4. we are currently in the 4th phase which is an integration of purpose and profit. What makes this more dynamic is that clearly the driver of change is digital. So in my interest to understand how purpose and profit work in our digital economy I recently asked the CEO of Siemens USA, Barbara Humpton, as a company that not only has been a leading industrial company with over 170 years of history, but one that today is on the forefront of of our digital revolution, “What does a purpose-driven digital workforce look like?”
Her verbatim response was,” Businesses that don’t bring value to society shouldn’t exist. From tackling climate change to megacities, there’s ample opportunity to channel tech for good – to make real what matters. That’s exactly what we do at Siemens; we’re a Business-to-Society company. Software engineers to manufacturing professionals can harness their digital talents to make the world a better place – whether that’s remotely keeping the power on in weather-distressed locations or building a robotic prosthetic for a veteran. A purpose-driven digital workforce allows you to engage with the people who will use your technology to improve the physical world.”
The message to CEOs is the next time you’re in a strategy meeting determining a new business model, think about Humpton’s first sentence and is what you’re doing truly bringing value to society? If your answer is no, you may want to reshape your model to something that resonates more with what society needs.