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What Avon and Tough Mudder Can Teach You About the New Economy

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Shifts in public desire are changing what we buy, how we buy it, from whom and why. These shifts are giving rise to new breeds of organizations, products, relationships and services that discover innovative approaches to prioritize purpose in people’s lives while often addressing the most intractable social and environmental problems.

Organizations that are thriving in the new purpose-driven economy integrate at least one of three methods into their enterprise. Companies that master these traits, such as the three below, will be better able to navigate changes in labor market needs and consumer priorities.

Don't Love Your Job? Fix the Job You're In.
The Purpose Economy (April 2014)

1) Delivering purpose to customers, consumers, or participants

Harvard MBA Will Dean founded Tough Mudder and has built a rapidly growing business out of extreme obstacle courses “designed to test your all-around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie.” These courses push people to face their fears as they make their way through mud, fire, ice water, and 10,000 volts of electricity. Over a million people around the globe have participated in these obstacle courses and have found the experience of training and participating to be one of powerful personal growth.

Tough Mudder was intentionally designed not as a race, but as a team challenge. People typically sign up with friends and support each other throughout the training and the actual event. It is part of the Tough Mudder pledge to “put teamwork and camaraderie before course time.” This makes the process social, and in making the success of their peers part of their goal, the participants, or “Mudders,” gain a sense of service. In so doing, Tough Mudder provides Mudders with personal and social purpose. Purpose is their service and their value proposition to customers.

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2) Providing purpose to employees

More than a century ago, Avon was founded to create “a means for women to earn their own money at a time when not many women worked outside the home,” connecting women who would otherwise be isolated. Avon was critical to building female independence in the economy and giving women a source of purpose. It has come a long way since then but has retained its core vision of empowering women through work.

3) Building purpose throughout the supply chain.

The tea company Guayaki Yerba Mate’s core goal is to create 1,000 jobs and restore 200,000 acres of rainforest by 2020. They have built a network of certified Fair Trade tea growers that have created jobs for indigenous people in Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil.

The company’s growth goals are tied to their purpose. They know that to make their desired impact, they must grow 25 percent every year until 2020. It is a daunting goal, but with purpose in their sails, they have stayed on track since they began in 1996. Their efforts increase purpose not just within the limits of the company, but in every person that contributes to the overall business in some fashion.

Aaron Hurst

Written By

Aaron Hurst is an award-winning entrepreneur and globally recognized leader in fields of purpose at work and social innovation. He is the CEO of Imperative and founder of the Taproot Foundation which he led for a dozen years. Aaron is a popular author and a regular speaker at universities, conferences and companies.