November 15, 2006

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects: Purpose

By: Jack @ 2:32 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Purpose: The Starting Point of Great Companies
By Nikos Mourkogiannis, Palgrave Macmillan, 272 Pages, $27.95, Hardcover, October 2006, ISBN 1403975817
I have a confession to make: I don't select all of the Jack Covert Selects. Ive got a lot of smart people on my staff, and they often help out. It is impossible to keep up with the ten to fifteen books that come in each week, so there are three of us who go through the inventory. Of course, we each have our likes and dislikes, but this process insures that I don't miss any good ones.
My second-in-command, Todd, walked into my office a couple weeks ago and started talking non-stop about Purpose: The Starting Point of Great Companies. His enthusiasm convinced me to move the book to the top of my stack and I am grateful for his prompting. Author Nikos Mourkogiannis makes the case that all great companies need a purpose. He defines purpose as "the reason for doing something that appeals to our ideas about what is right and what is worthwhile. Pretty heady stuff.
Nikos says there are four possible sources of energy for purpose. First is "the new" companies like Sony and 3M who exist to discover. Second is "the excellent"companies like The Economist and Berkshire Hathaway that believe that excellence in their field is the highest pursuit. Third is "the helpful"Disney's and Marriot's missions are to increase happiness. The final is "the effective"ambition and daring fuel goals like Bill Gates' obsession with getting the Microsoft operating system into every desktop computer. The author relates each of these energy sources back to a branch of human philosophy (Kierkegaard, Aristotle, Hume, and Nietzsche). Challenging? Sure. Fascinating? Absolutely.
Mourkogiannis then applies various aspects of business back to the idea of purpose. There are profiles of business leaders, like Henry Ford and Sam Walton, and descriptions of their respective sense of purpose. He also addresses issues like morale, innovation, competitive advantage, and leadership, and how purpose reinforces or expands the possibilities within these issues.
So much good stuff, but truly the powerful message for me was the idea of purpose. I have always felt 800-CEO-READ's purpose was to serve (i.e., be helpful). That conviction influences our hiring, how we treat our customers, and the time we take choosing the books we review. Pick this one up. You won't be disappointed.