Purpose stories: A coffee with Frank Dopheide

Purpose stories: A coffee with Frank Dopheide
Frank Dopheide.

Frank Dopheide is considered the absolute expert for the topic of "purpose" in Germany. The former Management Spokesperson of Handelsblatt Media Group advises companies to discover, to formulate and to bring purpose into the organisation. Therefore, he recently started his own agency human unlimited.Also as an author, Frank Dopheide recently published a bestseller, in which he describes how purpose in job and in life leads to happiness: "God is a creator – not controller. Life outside the efficiency trap, or why we should not have an annual conversation with our life partner." The conversation could not be more exciting.

Newsroom: Dear Mr Dopheide, thank you very much for taking the time. To get right to the most important question: Why does a company need purpose at all?

Frank Dopheide: “My pleasure. When a company gives a purpose, then that releases something, like the "inner fortune" of the organisation. This is in addition to the pure technical qualifications such as values, creativity, fighting spirit, empathy and a wealth of ideas. By activating these values, it would make companies more innovative and successful and more assertive.

In addition, a purpose also makes a difference for customers. If done well, they will say: "What the company does is also important to me. I can identify with that". So customers build a closer bond with the company and become more loyal.

The third reason is that society, through a purpose, recognises that the company is more than just a profit-driven organisation. The company will be recognized as a part of society for its valuable contribution. A purpose also increases social acceptance.”

Newsroom: Back to the word purpose again. Previously that might have been called a mission or a vision. Why is that no longer the case today?

Frank Dopheide: “Purpose as an English word is actually not accurate because it‘s more than just a purpose. But that‘s only because there is no appropriate word in the English vocabulary for this. In Germany, the term is to be "inspired" by something. That means we have an inner concern. The core meaning of this word is only available in the German language.”

Newsroom: DKV Mobility: And what‘s the difference between purpose and mission, that you know from before?

Frank Dopheide: “It is precisely this inner concern. If there is this concern, we do not first ask the question: how much money do we earn with something? We ask ourselves a lot more: What is the best I can give every day? That is an inner driver in us. And there are numerous prominent people who were inspired from what they do: Karl Lagerfeld or Stephen Hawking were such examples. Today also Greta Thunberg. All of these people got connected to their great inner power from the beginning. That is exactly what a company is all about. It‘s not that easy to make inner strength tangible.”

Newsroom: DKV Mobility: And to make it tangible, companies need a purpose?

Frank Dopheide: “The first thing you need is a thought. If that is formulated, you need to create an image. Through vizualisation, the inner drive becomes clear. An example that I always like to take is the story of Sir Edmund Hillary. His inner drive was to prove to the world that New Zealand has more to offer than just sheep. To prove that, he climbed Everest, the highest mountain on earth. Just a normal New Zealander who accomplished such greatness. He was inspired by the idea. To accomplish his goal, he needed to fulfill small missions. For example, to undergo training or to purchase suitable shoes. It is probably easier to understand how missions are related to purpose.”

Infografik Top10 challenges Unternehmen.

Newsroom: At the end, in most cases, there is a sentence on a piece of paper. How can this one sentence inspire people? What has to happen to bring the purpose to life?

Frank Dopheide: “This sentence serves as a thought behind what one can gather. It is interesting. It arises from the feeling that it could be meaningful to the world. In order for this sentence to come to life, it must be tangible. So, it has to come from daily actions of each individual. The most important point is to be active. You have to feel that the purpose is our daily defined work. Maybe you don’t do certain things anymore, and therefore you do other things more consciously. To bring the purpose to life, it often helps to find signature stories in the company. Stories from em loyees from the company. People are storytellers. It is also important to be aware of daily actions to take, because this is dail proof of what is important to us. This is how theory suddenly becomes visible, reachable and tangible.”

Newsroom: And how will these individual employee stories generate a united inner drive?

Frank Dopheide: “These little stories are best shared in the company every week or every month. Every time the story is heard the picture becomes a little sharper. That is comparable to pixels on television. The more I have, the clearer the picture is. Of course, that doesn‘t happen overnight. After about 1,000 days, a feeling of an inner compass develops. You get the feeling what suits your company and what doesn‘t. When you develop this feeling, then all the thousands of decisions made in all areas will get a little better. And that ensures that the company gains strength and becomes more coherent in the overall picture.”

Newsroom: That means, after having defined a purpose the main task is to bring the purpose to life by talking about it to each other?

Frank Dopheide: “This is the right way. Talk about it. Bring the purpose to life through actions and individual stories continuously in the company. And that‘s not all. Later, share the stories to the customers and also spread across the society.

But it is important that you live up to the story. It has to be believable. As a listener would say: "I understand the story. I can remember well. I can further tell the story." And so the understanding grows and the topic is embraced.”

Newsroom: Thank you very much, Mr Dopheide, for this great insight.

Frank Dopheide: “My pleasure. In the end, that‘s exactly what you want to achieve with a purpose – to take the everyone out on a joint journey and together tell a believable story.”