Have you ever been so deeply invested in a project for so long that you’ve lost forest for the trees, that you’ve actually had to stop yourself and ask, “Wait a minute, what am I really doing here? What am I trying to achieve with all this?” As Adalo began the next phase of its journey a few months ago, David and I and the rest of our team took the opportunity to take a step back and ask ourselves that question as we charted a path forward. Though we’d always had a vague sense of what it might be, it was time to define Adalo’s purpose and answer the big question — why does Adalo exist?
What is an organization’s purpose?
An organization’s purpose is not to make money. A company makes money so that it can fulfill its purpose. Money for an organization is like oxygen for an organism. You need oxygen to live, but your life’s purpose isn’t to breathe.
An organization’s purpose is not a mission. The key difference between a mission or goal and a purpose is that a mission can be accomplished. A mission is based on a set of criteria. A purpose, however, is something you continually strive for, but can never reach. Missions tend to focus on the end result (like the ball going into the net), whereas a purpose gives direction to your journey.
Organizations exist to create value for their customers, or put another way, to make their lives better. An organization’s purpose is the specific way in which they strive to make the world better.
We’ve written before about how some of our favorite companies use their focus on purpose to foster innovation. But to give you a better sense of what an organization’s purpose might look like, here are a few examples:
Starbucks - To inspire and nurture human spirit - one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at time
Southwest - Connecting people to what they care about (purpose) | To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline (mission)
Apple (original) - To make tools for the mind that advance humankind
Google - To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful
SpaceX - Ensure consciousness as we know it continues to exist (purpose) | Make life multi-planetary (mission)
Why is purpose important?
So now that you have a sense of what a purpose is, you might be asking yourself why is it so important. Well, it turns out that organizations that are driven by purpose actually do better than ones that don’t. Here’s why:
Purpose-driven organizations are less likely to be disrupted. Because of the increasingly rapid rate of technical innovation, companies that primarily focus on short-term profit tend to ignore new ways to serve their customers that might have lower profit margins. In the end though, these companies are eventually disrupted by new competitors. This is what happened when Netflix put Blockbuster out of business with their DVD delivery service. Blockbuster totally saw what Netflix was doing, but chose to ignore what they deemed to be a “lower profit margin business model.” When technology shifted again with the advent of streaming and it was Netflix’s turn to be disrupted, they took a different approach. Because Netflix is driven by their purpose of delivering entertainment, Netflix didn’t ignore streaming; they went all in on it. A purpose gives an organization the freedom to focus on the long-term and evolve as technology changes.
Purpose-driven organizations attract better people. Dan Keeler and Andrea D. McCombs found that, “People prefer to do business with and work for socially conscious companies” and that “the most talented and qualified applicants are increasingly considering a company’s ethics and community support when selecting their employer.”
People in purpose-driven organizations do better work. Research has repeatedly shown that when your work environment matches your personal purpose, you’re more productive and more creative. Being internally motivated by a purpose that matches your own means that you spend more time thinking about your “work.” (at this point, it really isn’t work anymore. It’s just part of your life. It’s what you are passionate about.) And the more you are thinking about a problem, the more you engage in lensing, the more chances you have to discover that all-important insight to lead you to an innovative solution.
A Triple Whammy
Armed with a purpose, you’ve got a ton of awesome and talented people joining your team, They’re thinking more creatively than ever. And you’ve got a clear direction for navigating an uncertain future.
Discerning the purpose of an organization (especially one that already exists) can be tricky, confusing, and - by definition - existential. When embarking on something like that, the best place to start is at the beginning, to uncover your origins.
David and I first met working at Second Street, a tech company that helps media companies engage their audience online through fun experiences like quizzes, contests, and newsletters. As we began working together to improve Second Street’s product, we realized we shared a passion for design.
One fateful night at a local pub (where all great ideas come from), David shared with me his frustration with the design education he received in architecture school and his belief that this was a systemic problem. That night we shook hands and decided to solve this problem together. Our first step was to truly get our heads around understanding what design is, how to be good at it, and how to teach it to others.
We spent years researching design and innovation in general and UX and product design specifically. And, after a while, we honestly felt like we had it pretty well figured out. But there was a BIG problem. Even if you knew how to identify a pain point that needed solving and even if you knew how to design a brilliant solution, if you didn’t know how to code (or couldn’t afford to pay people to code for you), that brilliant idea stayed stuck in your head forever. It was that stark reality that led us to shelve what was becoming a very promising book on design and innovation (if we do say so ourselves), and begin work on what would ultimately become Adalo.
Our Impact So Far
The next step for us was looking at the impact we’ve made with Adalo so far. We asked ourselves questions like “Who’s been using Adalo and why? What kind of impact has it had on their lives and on the lives of the users of their apps?” Our team has been collecting lots of examples lately on how people use Adalo, which you can see on our new showcase page. All of these stories provided tons of inspiration for us.
Finding the Words
Now that we’d reflected on why we started this journey and the impact we’ve made along the way, it was time to put pen to paper (or keyboard to google doc?) and start crafting our purpose. We started with a couple of statements that we’ve had on Adalo.com for a couple of years, and as with any good design process we went through many more iterations. (At the end of this post you can find some of the iterations we tried along with the reasons they didn’t quite fit the bill.) Here’s where we landed:
Adalo’s purpose is to: Empower makers to bring their ideas to life.
We couldn’t be more excited about adopting this purpose for Adalo! The term maker wasn’t really in our vocabulary when we started this journey (for that matter neither was no-code). But it’s a term we’ve seen our community use more and more to describe themselves as people who want to build things to solve the problems they see in their personal lives, at their work, and in the lives of others. Frankly, that’s how we see ourselves, too! So if you’re a maker with an idea that you want to turn into a reality, come check out Adalo; that’s why we’re here!
P.S. If you’re interested in seeing some phrases and didn’t make the cut, here’s some of the language we went through as we were coming up with our purpose statement:
Iterations from our Purpose Statement Brainstorm
Unlock the world’s creative potential so that anyone can bring their ideas to life
- Very Wordy
- Might be too broad. What if your creative idea is for some kind of art project? That’s great, but not really what we’re going for with Adalo.
Create Tools for the mind
- Well, this is just a copy of Apple’s original purpose, but we like it!
Accelerating the rate of innovation in the world
- This felt too much about the work that was being produced and not enough about people
Anyone can make software / apps / digital solutions
- Too mission-oriented / quantifiable
- Probably a little to solution-specific
- This felt not action-oriented enough. We didn’t want to just give people cool ideas.
Turn dreamers into makers
- We didn’t want to imply that we were the ones conferring the identity of “maker” on someone. That may already be a core part of who they are.
Other terms for maker that we considered
- Slightly too corporate of a connotation
- Doesn’t necessarily imply making something
- Too synonymous with “coder”
- Has too much of an old-school / Thomas Edison connotation
- Not specific enough. We’re not talking about math problems or new processes