How to Discover your core purpose


“Powered by Purpose” was the theme of this year’s Leadercast, where current and emerging leaders were inspired to discover and lead with their own deep purpose.  How do you articulate a core purpose for a group of people, be it a company, team or charity?  Here’s an effective method:


What is Core Purpose?

A core purpose describes why your organization exists beyond profit or money.  It is your group’s raison d’être.  It is a long-term idealist goal, probably just a little out of reach.  Research has shown that employee engagement and productivity, customer satisfaction and company results, are significantly higher, when employees aspire to and are connected to a meaningful purpose.


The 5 Why’s

Getting to your purpose is getting to your core or your root.  There is a process that engineers and problem solvers use to get to the root cause and we call that ‘The 5 Why’s’.  This is how it works:

  1. Start by writing down the products and services your firm provides
  2. Then ask, “Why are these important” and write that answer down
  3. Ask again, “Why is this important” to that answer and write your answer down
  4. Ask again, “Why is this important” and write your answer down – you are at your 3rd why
  5. Continue asking the same question, “Why is this important” until you’ve reached your 5th why

You will be closer to your group’s true altruistic purpose at the 4th or 5th why.  Our strategic planning clients have discovered very powerful core purposes for their organizations using the above method … in a short period of time!


Examples of Core Purpose

Disney “To make people happy”
3M “To solve unsolved problems innovatively”
Hewlett-Packard “To make technical contributions for the advancement and welfare of humanity”
Pilot’s Association “To advance, promote and preserve the Canadian freedom to fly”



2 Tips for Writing Your Core Purpose

  1. Keep it short. It should fit on a T-shirt almost like a marketing slogan.
  2. Start with “to”. Your core purpose is to …

It can be an a-ha moment when your group articulates its core purpose.  Your reach a sense of clarity about the ‘why’ of your organization.  Your core purpose can be used to recruit and attract the right people for your organization – those who aspire to the same purpose.  It can also be used for marketing messages and builds an emotional connection to your organization.

Give it a try.  Assemble a small group of engaged team members and try the 5 Why’s.  It’s an interesting discovery process. Want some help?  Give us a call!

By Kristine van der Pas-Norenius, BSc, MSM, Senior Advisor, Strategic Planning

Kristine Van Der Pas-Norenius on Twitter
Kristine Van Der Pas-Norenius
Expert Strategic Planner | OTUS Group
Kristine is a recipient of the Ottawa Businesswoman Achievement Award 2000 and the Nepean Businesswoman of the Year Award 2000. She co-founded and led her award-winning small business for 23 years where she applied her Master’s of Science of Management knowledge to develop and implement a winning business strategy.

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