Purpose, Value and Digital Impact - A Framework
- Tim Dixon
This article follows on from Dr Tim Dixon's recent UX Matters article on the Digital Impact Framework (DIF) and webinar on Strategic Impact Evaluation: Measuring the return on digital.
As humans, our brains are wired to seek patterns, order and meaning in the world. It’s therefore unsurprising that we’re also compelled to search for meaningful, individual purposes in life. The challenge lies in understanding what comprises a purposeful life. For example, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs places self-actualisation as the ultimate goal in life. But what aspects of purpose are shared between individuals? An answer is provided by the Japanese concept of Ikigai, a model defining one’s reason for existing.
“The word ikigai is usually used to indicate the source of value in one's life or the things that make one's life worthwhile.”
As a holistic approach to understanding what a person lives for, the Japanese philosophy of ikigai is often used as a way to describe and find balance in various facets of one’s life. This is in contrast to just focusing on money, for example; studies into human subjective well-being, happiness and wealth suggest such concepts as life purpose and life quality are multidimensional.
Ikigai considers all of us all to have four driving forces in life:
• What will make the world better (innovation)
• What you’re able to do well (skill)
• What you love doing (connection)
• What you’ll receive money for doing (economy)
Fig 1: The Ikigai concept represented as a Venn Diagram
Following on from personal ikigai, how might we consider the greater purpose of an organisation? An organisation by its very nature is comprised of individuals, and so they each bring their own distinct motivations and purpose to the collective. One way that an organisation can draw together the individual ikigai of its staff is through meaningful, inspirational leadership.
What an organisation strives for
“Very few organisations know WHY they do what they do. WHY is not about making money. That’s a result. WHY is a purpose, cause or belief. It’s the very reason your organisation exists.”
Simon Sinek - How Great Leaders Inspire Action
Sinek’s Golden Circle model states:
• Successful leaders should usually know (and inform their employees of) what they want to achieve that is of value.
• Some motivating leaders will know how they will achieve it.
• But few leaders will know and inspire their organisations with why they will produce things of value.
Fig 2: Sinek's Golden Circle Model
“Value is a perception, not a calculation. It is something people feel not something we tell them they get.”
So, we have individuals with purpose working for organisations that make things of value. How do we establish the wider benefits of this sequence? One answer comes from considering the impact of those offerings of value.
Measuring digital impact
“Impact is the tangible change that research provides, be it in policy, business, industry or society.”
Oxford University e-Research Centre
In the current context, we can extend the above to definition to: ‘impact is the measurable long-term consequence of activity that’s of lasting value’. While the value is near-impossible to measure in and of itself, impact provides a proxy for that value based around innovation, process, social and economic drivers.
Digital impact and value
The Digital Impact Framework (DIF) was introduced in the UX Matters article: Measuring the Value of UX. Closely aligning with the four individual drivers of purpose found in ikigai, we provide a way of measuring impact based on:
• What your organisation will provide that makes the world better (innovation)
• What your organisation will do to enable people to work well (skill)
• What well-being your organisation will bring to society (connection)
• What your organisation will generate money from doing (economy)
This approach therefore provides a balanced and holistic strategic tool for measuring a project’s impact, and by proxy, the value generated by the organisation.
The Digital Impact Framework in practice
By helping an organisation to measure the value of its work, the DIF also supplies the iterative loop back to the individuals that work for the organisation, helping them to see how their own purpose aligns with the organisation’s goals.
Figure 3: The cyclical relationship between purpose, value and impact
If business leaders can show their staff how organisations impact innovation, skill, connection and economy, they can support individual purpose in these areas. By adopting such a strategy, we will be able to work towards a profoundly new way of conceiving organisational responsibility in a more sustainable digital future.
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