"I'm sorry, I can't help you - I'm not a socialist."
This was how Adam, a marketing coach, responded when discussing how to better leverage the training and coaching programs of my social enterprise, the Intrinsic Brilliance Institute.
Adam's response echoes that of Ben, one of my earlier coaches, when I was seeking guidance on how I might build and scale a sustainable business using gratitude-based pricing. He strongly advised against it and being brand new in business, I heeded his advice despite yearning to truly disrupt the personal development industry.
This is the challenge that I experience time and time again. We always seem to come to the same sticking point: when I put our mission and purpose up front whilst committing to improving profitability they respond with obfuscation.
But something inspiring happened recently. I read Ash Buchanan's article outlining the concept of a Benefit Mindset, a distinctive way of viewing the world that prioritises collective well-being on par with personal growth. In his words, “the mindset of a person who is genuinely able to discover their gifts and strengths, and is empowered to use them to create a meaningful future of greater possibility.”
My vision became sharper and my whole world came into focus. Finally I made sense of the predicament I've found myself in for the past year! Those coaches, Ben and Adam, like many other business coaches were operating from very different belief system than I.
Buchanan's work is an extension of Stanford professor and psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck, the person most well-known for discovering and defining the differences in Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset. This is summarised in the image above. Whilst I love training on the freedoms of experimentation that Growth Mindset enables, and witnessing the shift in thinking between Fixed and Growth, I was amazed at what happened when I considered the space beyond growth…
A Plethora of Possibilities
Discovering Buchanan's work enabled me to clearly see the contrast of my mindset and that of some of my business coaches and mentors. Whilst raising our rates may be a simpler strategy to increase revenue, given the purpose and mission of the organisation, it may not actually be the best solution. I suggest increasing our reach rather than our rates and am met with dismay as to why I would chose a more challenging path when there is a shortcut available.
The purpose before profit sentiment, whilst shared by other social enterprises and B corporations, is far from mainstream in business. Indeed, it's more like an awkward step-cousin that no one wants to talk to because they aren't sure how to relate or what to say. And there appears to be a dearth of resources to train people with a Benefit Mindset how to excel in business.
I found myself joining the dots between Buchanan's work and that of business innovation strategist Simon Sinek, who developed the Golden Circle framework which explains how businesses communicate their value proposition: some share WHAT they do, some share HOW they do it, and few share WHY they do it.
"The quality of your life depends on the quality of the questions you ask."
Combining the two frameworks, and layering upon them my own penchant for quality questions, it occurred to me that the different mindsets are asking very different questions based on the way they are perceiving the world.
With a Fixed Mindset, you perceive things in terms of polarised isolated points (e.g. positive/negative, black/white). Those in possession of a Growth Mindset perceive linearly (e.g. understanding the shades of grey). With a Benefit Mindset, however, your worldview is multi-dimensional, expanding beyond that of your current space/time continuum. Naturally, how you perceive the world affects the questions you ask, both of yourself and others. And much like the Golden Circle, why is at the core of it; specifically, why am I living?
This may as well be a storyboard for my own personal journey. I went from predominantly Fixed Mindset thinking - perceiving the world in black and white, feeling unfulfilled in life but being terrified to change things for fear I might get it wrong - to cultivating a Growth Mindset through years of reading self-help books and being a personal development seminar junkie. Then, through my yoga practice and being mentored by a transformational leadership coach with a Benefit Mindset, I noticed mine gradually begin to shift in that direction too.
Connecting to Purpose & Service
"The meaning of life is to discover your special gifts. The purpose of life is to share them."
To me the Benefit Mindset is, at its core, an understanding of higher purpose. A knowing that the work that we as individuals are here to do - our spirit's calling - is inextricably intertwined with serving The Greater Good. How will the decisions we make elevate collective consciousness?
I strongly believe that tapping into this underlying motivation is the key to a high performing, resilient business in the future. And I’m not the only one. Robert Shiller, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in economics said this about purpose-driven business: "My guess is that this new idea will turn out to be a winner, that will yield some of our most profitable corporations because of the employee and community support they will inspire."
The era of Business-As-Usual has ended. Now, we’re challenging businesses to think differently, and look beyond growth to align their existence with a higher purpose. This means clearly understanding that profit is a means to an end rather than the end in and of itself. And this is a byproduct of having a Benefit Mindset.