'A mission means it hasn't been done yet.'

On my quest to uncover what makes business software companies remarkable, one thing that stands out is their ability to ‘create new possibilities.’ What they do doesn’t have to be original. Hardly anything is these days since innovation is often about combining different things we have become familiar with in new ways so that it provides a new, fresh, and unique experience.

It’s not about ‘better’

Fact is, what they do is not ‘just’ about creating something ‘better.’ What sets them apart is their ability to create something different that provides a shift in value. It often transforms the way we do things. It leaves an experience we cannot live without once we had a taste of it.

It’s what inspires me in many of the podcast interviews I do with technology pioneers. The treat that connects the best stories is the fact they started on a single spark – spotting something that’s truly broken in the world of their ideal customers, which would be highly valuable to solve.

MisionDefensible differentiation

Another thing that sets them apart is their realization they need to good narrow and deep, rather than broad and narrow. There’s value in solving the hard part – not only for their ideal customers but also for them. It provides them with defensible differentiation, and that gives them a lasting advantage.

All in all – they are on a mission to do something big together.

Now across my career, I’ve seen many companies stating their mission – often even publishing it on large posters in the lobby of their offices. Fact is, some thrive on it, and others don’t. The question is: why?

Not done yet

Gina Bianchini, Founder of Mighty Networks, answered this question spot on in an interview with IdeoU:  ‘A mission means: it hasn’t been done yet.’

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Here’s why: If it has been done before, you can only end up with something marginally better. That’s not what’s going to move the market. You’re going to end up in a battle that no one can win.

There’s another critical aspect to this: It’s not about you. How often do we see companies state a mission that’s precisely the opposite: ‘We want to be a $1 billion company by….’, ‘We aim to be the leader in [name your category],’ ‘We aim to be the best in [XYZ]

It’s about change

Sure, ‘that’ has not been done yet within your company yet, but that’s not what this is about. If we craft our mission instead around the change we aim to make for our customers, all the rest will follow. Change is what customers buy – nothing else. Their investment will always be about ‘getting from somewhere to somewhere more desirable.’ It’s what they are prepared to pay a premium for.

If you define your mission with this in mind, this becomes your flywheel to indeed become that $1 billion company, the leader in your category, the best. It’s the result of your mission, not the target.

It’s about value that matters

I typically use three fundamental questions in helping my customers define the change they want to make for their customers:

    Is it valuable (in the eyes of your ideal customers)?

    Is it urgent? (i.e., is it something high on their priority list or will it be if they see it?)

    Is it something where you can exceed expectations?

If any of these questions is a ‘no’ – keep tuning.

The power behind this that it helps you to express what you are all about in very concrete terms. It needs to resonate – not only with your customers but possibly even more critical, with your own people. Doing this right results in two things: Alignment and energy. With that, you’re able to do what’s not been done yet.

So, the question to you: What’s the purpose of the company you work for? Please share it.