Purpose-Driven Work: Helping People Find Their Calling

April 16, 2015

12:30 pm

‘Work with purpose’ is an old phrase being given new meaning in today’s world, with a whole new class of technology devoted to helping people identify ways to create purpose-driven work and make them work better. The fascinating part is: the competing theories rarely agree on anything, so testing the efficacy of their competing theories – from strength, to personality, to purpose-driven, will be the key driver in optimizing employee performance over the coming decades.

Early pioneers in ‘people-optimization’ began by seeking to identify people’s core strengths, personality traits, and capabilities. Clifton Strengths Finder, by Gallup, measures the presence of 34 talent themes in each polled individual. This, often paired with the Myers-Briggs personality test you probably took in college, helps identify core strengths and personality traits with corresponding areas of strong performance.

“The key to human development is building on what you already are…but from the cradle to the cubicle, we devote more to our shortcomings then our strengths,” wrote Tom Rath in Wellbeing, The Five Essential Elements.

New approaches, such as Aaron Hurst’s The Purpose Economy, have steered the field towards the assessment of individual purpose drivers and using them to help people identify their calling and, through it, optimize their work. At the center of this research is the belief that self-expression and self-actualization and purpose can be achieved in any employment – from the CEO to the cleaning crew – and that calling-driven work is far more productive and rewarding.

“The mass quest for self-expression in the workplace is reshaping corporate behavior and creating new economic opportunities,” wrote Reid Hoffman, Founder of Linkedin, in his review of The Purpose Economy.

The fascinating part is, while differing approaches often use parts of the same base – such as elements of the longstanding Myers-Briggs test – they rarely agree on what actually drives real people optimization. In particular, strength-focused and purpose-approaches are not always reconcilable.

“To date, there has been such an emphasis on knowing and leveraging our strengths, yet the data behind what drives purpose for individuals presents huge future value for unlocking people’s optimization,” said Arthur Woods, COO of Imperative, which provides an employer resource to bring purpose to work.



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I am an entrepreneur, angel investor, and early-stage VC living and working in New York City.

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