Robert Quinn in HBR: How (and why) to create a purpose-driven organization

June 27, 2018

Harvard Business Review cover story describes a framework to realize the power of positive business.

Robert Quinn

Robert Quinn

All too often, executives avoid the notion of a higher purpose to their organization. They assume that their employees act primarily in self-interest, and treat them accordingly; it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The executives implement ever-tighter controls, workers react, and performance suffers.

In a new cover story for Harvard Business Review, Michigan Ross Professor Emeritus Robert Quinn — a pioneer in the field of positive organizational practices — and co-author Anjan V. Thakor of Washington University establish a step-by-step framework to break this cycle.

The authors detail how companies can become more successful by identifying, communicating, and living a core purpose — an approach supported by academic research and consulting work with hundreds of organizations.

“We have come to see that when an authentic purpose permeates business strategy and decision making, the personal good and the collective good become one,” the authors write. “Positive peer pressure kicks in, and employees are reenergized. Collaboration increases, learning accelerates, and performance climbs.”

The article outlines eight specific steps organizations can take, from “Envision an inspired workforce” to “Unleash the positive energizers.” “Purpose is not just a lofty ideal; it has practical implications for your company’s financial health and competitiveness,” the authors conclude.

Robert Quinn is professor emeritus of management and organizations at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, and one of the founders of the Center for Positive Organizations.

This story was originally published as a Ross Thought in Action article.