Sense of Purpose – Mind over Matter
Written by Swanand Umaranikar on March 31, 2015 in Lean Startup Team Up

Sense of Purpose – Mind over Matter

A sense of purpose is the most defining moment for any organization about to cross the chasm. It can change the course of one’s life. Purpose is what keeps successful startups crack the code successfully and faster than others around. The clarity of WHY over WHAT provides that big momentum required to break into that elite league.

There is a very famous story that most of us have read and shared at some point in life. It brings about this fact around the essence of purpose and its impact on outcome so beautifully. It touches the roots of the high performing individuals and teams. We need them to build high performing products and organizations.

So here it goes –  Once upon a time, there lived a King who was very fond of building gigantic temples. The temples used to be full of beautiful carvings and artistic sculptures. Each such temple turned out to be a master piece in arts and usually took long time and massive labor to get them build.

On one hot afternoon in summer, the King wanted to see how the temple is coming up. He disguised himself as an ordinary villager and went to the construction site of the temple. He saw three workers digging deep in the stone mine and carrying those stones to the construction site. They all were drenched in sweat under the burning sun. The King decided to have short conversation with them to know what they feel about what they are doing.
He asked the first one “What are you doing?” and the answer was very simple – “I carry stones from the mine”.

Now he asked the same question to the second worker and he got little different answer – “I am earning a living”.

The King was curious to know what the third worker is going to say, and he asked the same question again “What are you doing?”.

The third person looked at this ordinary villager (the King) and smiled. He requested this villager to wait for a minute and carefully kept the stone down on the ground that he was carrying on his head. Then he requested this villager to sit down, and said, “You know what, you are at a construction site where you will see a beautiful temple after some time. The temple will have fascinating sculptures and world’s finest quality carvings. It will be a place for the priests to pray and a calm shelter for the passerby strangers. And I am proud to be part of building this temple. You asked me ‘What am I doing?’, I would say I am the one who is building this master piece!”

The original story ends here, but what happened after this conversation? It is interesting to know the climax as well…

The King looked at the work this third worker has completed and noticed that the work is of finer quality with very less wastage while carving statues from the stones. And when he looked at the worker he found that this third worker is the happiest person among the folk of the workers working there.

Now the question is ‘How this story connects with the high-performing teams and startups?’. I would say the connection is not limited to this aspect, but applicable everywhere, everything one does throughout his/her life. Be it corporate world or sports, we all have experienced it – when “Purpose” is clear, “Performance” is at its peak!

If WHY is well understood, the HOW will emerge with great potential of delivering the WHAT that meets the purpose.

You will find many such examples in the today’s world where the organizations have succeeded dramatically, because their leaders strive to find answer for ‘WHY’ – ‘Why this organization exists?’, ‘Why we are building what we are building?’, ‘Why we are doing what we are doing?’ If the leader has this competency to provide “Purpose” to the teams, people will start working together closely. They will perform various roles and work effectively across the organization. They will invest in learning and cultivate agility to complete the tasks at hand quickly to remain competitive.

This is what every Startup needs, to be successful!

A good (high-performing) team – who can adapt and take any role that is aligned with the “WHY”
Brilliant (and evolving) Idea – that comes out of the learning culture the team develops in form of innovation
Willingness to seek constant feedback – to tune their “HOW” and “WHAT” in the same direction of “WHY”

An effective, high performing team strives to know the big picture. Each team member tries to understand the context and the objectives to the greatest degree. This understanding in not only limited to the teams objectives but also to the relevance of individual jobs and the positive impact they can have on teams effectiveness. The team learns to figure out their contribution to the desired end result. This culture of understanding the Big Picture fosters collaborative, commitment driven and built-in quality culture. The common understanding and shared goals helps the team to uncover inter-dependencies and strengthen the team dynamics as the team eliminates blame-games.

If you are running a Startup or planning to start one, you have to make a choice! You can choose to focus on WHAT and have a disoriented team OR you can decide to make an attempt to keep on asking WHY and have a team that can make difference in HOW you run your business and WHAT your business delivers.

Which choice you want to make?

1 Comment

April 3, 2015 @ 15:06


when asked WHY to myself before reading this article was not that clear.
Now concentrating on HOW part to see WHAT in terms of satisfaction, value and relationship.

I believe it is not just when you want to have start up or own activity but every time as it reflects in perfection, no wastage and high performing teams.

Waiting to be part of upcoming meetup!!!

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