2017

Why organizations of tomorrow need purpose

Insights from the SAP Future of Work Research Roundtable
Our CEO Nancy Birkhölzer is part of a community of industry, academia, politics, and association representatives brought together by SAP for a series of Future of Work Roundtable discussions. The group has been identifying research areas, and developing strategies to drive new work innovation forward. And although many topics have been brought to the table, one notion has been gaining particular momentum: that “purpose is the new business imperative”.

Understanding how companies that are driven by a higher purpose function in practice is of particular interest to us at IXDS. Not only have we been carrying out research into this topic with organizations such as SAP, we ourselves have been in the process of transitioning towards becoming a purpose-driven, self-managing organization.

“Being purpose-led is essential. Organizations that don’t have the ambition to solve relevant problems will have a real issue attracting the talent they need to produce or solve anything,” Nancy says in a video interview with SAP at the March Roundtable event [below].

“Future generations want the organizations where they are spending their time and energy to match their personal values and purpose in life.”

Although it’s becoming increasingly clear that companies that are only driven by the pursuit of profit will struggle to keep up with our values-based culture, just how to get to that point still requires some trial and error.

“We all know we need to be purpose-driven and self-organized, but what I would really like to see is people who dare to try, and dare to prototype new work principles and are happy to share them,” Nancy says.

“I would also like to engage more political and government representatives — anyone who sets the framework. We need these drivers from people who can make rules around this, and help make innovative new work principles happen.”

EN Version: Nancy Birkhölzer talks purpose-led organizations at SAP Research Roundtable

What we really try to do is to foster entrepreneurial thinking and give everyone the feeling that they can contribute wherever they want. They can start new initiatives, they can form new teams, they can come up with new ideas.

Nancy Birkhölzer
DE Version: Nancy Birkhölzer talks purpose-led organizations at SAP Research Roundtable

One prototype IXDS has been working on is implementing tools and processes that allow us to measure success by how much a project contributes to the company’s purpose. A future aim is to also assess team members on their impact and value contribution — something that will involve a level of flexibility that allows people to choose project roles based on where they think they can make the best contribution.

“What we really try to do is to foster entrepreneurial thinking and give everyone the feeling that they can contribute wherever they want. They can start new initiatives, they can form new teams, they can come up with new ideas,” Nancy says.

So far, the Roundtable events have allowed us to share our experiences, reflect on the future of work on a larger scale, and be part of a community of like-minded people who can help drive new work initiatives forward.

We are still in the early stages of our journey to transition towards becoming a purpose-led organization, and will have more updates soon. In the meantime, check out the videos on this page to hear more from Nancy about the importance of making these changes, and some of the approaches we’re adopting to adapt to this future work scenario.

A glimpse into the first SAP Future of Work Research Roundtable