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We are in the midst of a huge paradigm shift from a mechanistic ideal of organizations to a humanistic one.

From the traditional notion of the ideal company as a well-oiled machine, controlled by a CEO, to one where the ideal company is a synthesis of minds that is constantly and continually learning, improving and producing.

We’re not all at the same point along the path of this transition – and even within organizations, some people are further along than others. You guys here are in the lead, of course.

And, in the midst of this new-found humanism it is tempting to embrace the “its our people” mantra ever more tightly.

That’s because we’ve discovered that we have vast untapped human potential hiding within our organizations, and the pressure to figure out how to engage it is skyrocketing. You’ll hear a lot about how to engage people here this week, and with good reason.

But we’ve been out there for a couple of years or so building and selling an enterprise social app that supports team collaboration, and our research and, even more, our customers and also many of you, have taught us a lot. We’ve learned that we can predict with close to 100% accuracy which of our clients will fail and which will succeed.

There is a single criterion that we can use to predict this and it is a sense of purpose. Without a strong sense of purpose, even the most talented collection of people will founder.

With a sense of purpose you will get the best work out of whatever crew you have assembled. With purpose, people strive.

Without purpose, personal interests, infighting, and worse, apathy, takes the place of vision, and becomes the dominant force in decision-making. With Purpose, people strive.

Their iron cores align to a common magnetic north. This alignment unlocks their collaborative, collective potential.

Personal politics – though still there – takes a back seat.

- Deb Lavoy, my E2Conf Keynote

Deb Lavoy was one of the best things about the recent Enterprise 2.0 conference.

I might quibble a bit with terminology, because I find that what is really needed for groups to succeed is meaning: the significance of an activity, and its import for others. Purpose emphasizes the end of some activity, which is fine as far as it goes. Meaning carries the additional nuance of shared understanding, which is primary for me.

I am looking forward to the Purpose Driven speaker series that Deb is running for Open Text, starting with Simon Sinek in NYC, July 12.

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