How a dictatorship over corporate purpose sets everyone free

Peter Koenig‘s work on the Role of Source has been the most powerful business idea I’ve come across in a long time. We’re using it at NixonMcInnes right now to unlock the company’s purpose, as well as with start-ups at The FuseBox. It’s unbelievably useful and liberating so we need to get this idea further out into the world. I worked with Peter Koenig and Charlie Davies (who helped Peter develop it) on an award entry for this work. Please check it out and let me know what you think. If you find it useful, please click the ‘like’ button towards the right-hand side of the page, next to the headline.

6 thoughts on “How a dictatorship over corporate purpose sets everyone free

  1. Hi Tom,

    I can think of 3 companies which don’t have a source, they have a group who came up with the idea in a pub. What happens here?

    I don’t have an issue with the notion of a enterprise’s DNA and its purpose (Simon Sinek redux etc) but the concentration on the individual seems curiously…orthodox, redolent of a US-centric idea of the mythic entrepeneur-as-dictator.

    I work with collective enterprises all the time, and this narrative just doesn’t hold, so how does the narrative integrate contrary data like this?

  2. I would bet that if we examined the early histories of those three companies closely we’d find one person from the group who either: 1) moved the idea out of the realm of pub conversations and took the first risk which turned it into an initiative; or 2) already had the seed of the idea brewing beforehand, and the pub conversation was the moment that the idea was birthed, by involving others. That person is the source and will have a different relationship to the initiative to the other members of the group. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they become the most powerful person in the company, so it’s not the same as the entrepreneur-as-dictator.

    Another way to think about the pub conversations is to consider whether it’s possible for a group of individuals to each come up with the same idea and get it started at precisely the same moment. One individual has to say something to make the first move and take the first risk on the idea, and the others help to take it forward. This takes nothing away from the importance of others involved in the initiative, but there can only be one source.

    I’m very interested in the relationship between the source principles and democratic organisations. I think the two are completely complementary. I’d love to chat more over a coffee or beer and see if we can unpick those counter-examples you mention. Who knows, perhaps there are exceptions, but from all the work I’ve done on this and seen from others, the principles hold up extremely well.

    • In all three, there were varying levels where different people had different roles in pushing the conversation on, but what’s notable about all three is that from the get go, each enterprise was conceived of as a collective endeavour, and so regardless of anyone else’s prior role, there was no sense that this was anything other that something that the group owned, had created and drove forward.

      I’m only skim reading, but it seems to me that this source notion conflates several things – that of founding inspiration, founding ideas and DNA, and respected member(s) whose importance is greater than their status. All are important in any analysis of where a company is, but there’s no need for them to be the same thing.

  3. Pingback: What does it really mean to be a democratic business? – cazyetman

  4. Pingback: What does it really mean to be a democratic business? - NixonMcInnes

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