Monday, December 16, 2013

Finding Meaning and Purpose in the Marketplace

I was listening to a podcast recently that featured a computer systems engineer who had worked with six different tech firms over the last 20 years.  He had some interesting stories, but what struck me most about his presentation were some of the words he used—words like “mission,” “values,”  “making a difference,” and “calling.”

These are all terms that I am accustomed to hearing in a religious context.  In the church we affirm that we have a mission—the missio Dei (or “mission of God”), we help believers recognize and act on their values, we encourage congregants to “make a difference” in the world, and we facilitate each person discovering his or her calling.

How did this connection or transference originate?  For a number of years, various types of companies have emphasized the need for a clear vision and a mission statement.  These terms could very well have come from other sources such as the military.  The use of more values-laden terms like “calling,”"servant leadership," “making a difference,” or “giving back” have emerged in the last couple of decades and previously seemed quite alien to the corporate environment.

There may be a number of reasons for this usage, but I think it is definitely connected to the amount of the time that people spend in their professions and their desire that their work be something more than simply making a living and acquiring money.

Max De Pree, a corporate leader, found that "servant leadership" was an effective way to expand management into a new dimension.  Writers such as Daniel Pink have pointed out that money is not always the ultimate motivator for people.  As long as they are making an acceptable wage, they are motivated more by other factors such as the ability to be innovative, plan their own projects, help others, or positively impact the lives of their clients or customers.

Whatever the cause, there is something inside each of us that pushes us to the next level.  Perhaps it is part of an innate desire that comes from being created in the image of God.

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