Creating Company Values Beyond Profit

This post comes from Creative Difference, a tool created by IDEO to help organizations understand and develop their creative edge. Informed by a short assessment, Creative Difference generates a fully customized dashboard to help business leaders better understand their company’s specific strengths and blindspots when it comes to adapting to a rapidly changing market.

Combining IDEO's years of experience working with some of the most innovative and creative organizations, Creative Difference scores organizations on six Creative Qualities. Purpose is one of the fundamental six Creative Qualities that successful organizations exhibit. Does your organization have a clear purpose beyond making a profit?

Tim Brown Creating Company Values


Purposefulness: a clear, inspiring reason for a company to exist—beyond making money.

Inspire employees with a higher organizational purpose.

When the company purpose focuses on making a meaningful change in the world, it stokes employees’ passion, inspires them, and injects powerful meaning into their work. Individual compensation and organizational profit play an important role in employee motivation, but they tend to have a limited impact past a moderate threshold. Inspired performance, long-term dedication, and sustained innovation require that the organization activate employees intrinsic motivation—passion for a meaningful cause above and beyond profit.

A clear articulation of the company’s purpose helps to align employees on shared goals. When higher level goals are clear, the organization can adapt and act more efficiently for two important reasons. First, when facing situations that require significant judgment, employees feel empowered to make decisions and take action with less need to consult their superiors. Second, clear, shared goals create common ground across interdependent teams and units, greatly increasing their ability to coordinate work.

What does the Creative Difference data tell us?

A strong and clear purpose that resonates with your workforce goes a long way in making them feel stimulated and inspired at work. Employees who work in companies that have a purpose that is inspiring, useful, and clear, are 11% more likely to feel challenged at work as opposed to overwhelmed, or bored.

Who does this well?

CVS Health

CVS’s purpose is to help people on the path to better health. Realizing that cigarettes weren’t consistent with their company purpose, CVS banned their sale in any of their stores as of October 1, 2014. Tobacco products provided a huge revenue stream of over $2 billion in annual sales, but CVS recognized the hypocrisy of their sale if they really wanted to become a health-centered brand.

Banning cigarettes was the right thing to do, and the company sought other opportunities to help people on the path to better health. For example, CVS continues to create strategic partnerships with healthcare providers to offer “minute clinics” in its retail locations. Partnerships like these have not only been lucrative but have helped CVS transition from a retailer to a healthcare depot. By aligning its product portfolio towards its purpose, CVS has been able to clarify its brand and help employees feel better about their work.

Make Your Purpose Visible

Our new class Power of Purpose with help you define, articulate, and activate your purpose at work.

Starting Soon

Business Innovation - IDEO U Certificate
Human-Centered Strategy Certificate