#cong22 Chairing Briefing Instructions

How huddles are chaired at #cong22

Huddle Structure at a glance

  • 10-12 people per huddle (could be less/more)
  • Roundtable coffee conversation style
  • 2-3 Present at each huddle
  • 10 Minute presentation
  • 5-10 Minute discussion
  • 4 rotating 1 hr huddles
  • Start with simple introduction and life hack

Session Breakdown

  • 1 hour per huddle
  • Welcome/ground rules – 5 mins
  • Introductions/ice breaker – 10 mins (2 mins each) (15 mins elapsed)
  • Speakers selected
  • Presentation 1 – 10 mins (25 minutes elapsed)
  • Q&A – 5 minutes  (30 minutes elapsed)
  • Presentation 2 – 10 minutes (40 minutes elapsed)
  • Q&A – 5 minutes (45 minutes elapsed)
  • Presentation 3 (55 minutes elapsed)
  • Q&A 5 mins (60 minutes elapsed)
  • Thank all speakers/last thoughts/comments

Main Focus

  • Timings
  • Flow of conversation
  • Inclusion of all voices
  • Remote attendees


  • Timer (phone)
  • Note pad
  • PC with extension cable (if dialling in remote attendee)


Each huddle will have a chairperson who manages the session flow and ensures time keeping and interaction.  The chairs role is to kick start proceedings, manage the introductions, ice breakers, encourage the three/two speakers and more importantly enjoy the session.

The principal behind small huddles and using social venues is that it is supposed to replicate real world conversations rather than artificial presentations from a podium.  We have structured the sessions to avoid chaos but the chairs judgement of the group is paramount and there is lots of flexibility built in.  You do not have to an expert on the theme but your view is also important so you can decide to contribute or not.  Some people will be quite nervous and anxious while some will be very confident and naturally monopolise time.  The range of people and topics is very broad so you will have a very diverse group who different backgrounds, interests, occupations and ages profile.

Your role is to make people feel comfortable, relaxed, manage the introductions, time manage the sessions, read the group and over all flow of the session. The real challenge will be to make it inclusive but this is no different to normal conversations in social situations.

I really do appreciate your time and I hope you enjoy.  I have included some guidance below which should help but also reading as many of the posts as possible will really assist you and they are genuinely very varied and interesting.

The chairs for the 8 venues for #cong22 are:

  1. Barry Kennedy | Mc Hughes | Two groups here. Lunch served.
  2. Richard Millwood | Danaghers | One group in the café to the right. Lunch served.
  3. Ruairi Kavanagh | Puddleducks | One group. Table at the window. Lunch served.
  4. Don Delaney | Elizabeth Togher’s | One group. Round table. Lunch in Danaghers.
  5. Cormac Kennedy | Lydons | One group. Downstairs. Lunch served here.
  6. Alan Costello | The Irish History Bookstore | One group. Lunch in Ryans.
  7. Mike O’Rourke | McHughes | Two groups. Lunch Served.
  8. Tony O’Kelly | Ryans | One Group | Upstairs area over the bar. Lunch served.

Below are the instructions for the chairs but its also useful for everyone to understand the role/process.

  • You have been allocated one huddle to chair (as per above)
  • Some venues will also be open to the public but we will have blocked off areas in all venues
  • Huddles kick off at 10.30am so check out your location in advance ideally from from 10am.
  • Briefing for chairs takes place at 10am in Ryans Hotel (registration venue). One of the chairs might run this as registration tends to get busy.
  • There will be max 10-12 people in each huddle but numbers may vary.
  • There will be four huddles throughout the day according to the lanyard schedule.
  • Kick off each huddle by introducing yourself.
  • Explain overall running order – 1hr, introductions, life hack, two/three 10-15 minute talks followed by discussion after each one.
  • Ask people to introduce themselves and give their ‘Life Hack: as an ice breaker.  You might have to kick off the life hack with one of your own.
  • In their introductions people should state their name, what they do for a living but most importantly AVOID any sales pitches or overly lengthy life stories. Short and snappy is best and there is plenty of time during the breaks to dig deeper into work life and build connections.  This might be a bit tricky at the start as people are unsure of how much they should say but encourage them to keep it short.  It works if you give an example with your own introduction.
  • A ‘life hack’ is a tip from a productivity tip, social media tool or as broad as a philosophical tip on life.  This is designed to get people talking to each other.  Aim for max of two minutes.
  • The introductions are very important part of people getting to know each other and people will be doing it 4 times during the day.  However this is an area where you can lose a lot of time, making it difficult to catch up later.  You should aim to keep this to 15 minutes max with the first presentation starting not later than 15 minutes after group arrive (you may need to start before everyone is in attendance).  Strong time keeping at the beginning will make it easier to rein in conversations later and keep control of the sessions.  This means you will may have to interrupt (perhaps asking for the life hack if introduction is long winded) and constant reminders of the amount of time available.  You should keep your time keeping device (phone, clock, hour glass;) close at hand and don’t be afraid to point at it or look at it to remind people.  Tight time keeping at the start creates a statement of intent for your chairmanship of the session.
  • Next up ask which three/two people would like to present.
  • Agree who goes first.
  • Explain that each speaker has 10-15 minutes to present and encourage everyone to contribute/ask questions.
  • Some talks might go on longer/shorter but the key is to measure the atmosphere in the group.
  • Occasionally the group have been happy to have just one speaker especially if it spawns engaged debate but best to try have a number of speakers at each huddle.
  • Use judgement – if people are riveted to the speaker then allow more time especially if only 2 speakers.
  • Ask if anyone is recording or streaming the session – just so everyone knows. Encourage people to tweet or post on social media using the #cong22.
  • Explain that tea/coffee is available for them to use – let me know if supplies run low especially for Elizabeth Toghers and the Irish History Bookstore (Ryans will supply).
  • Details for lunch venues will be on the lanyard.
  • Start the clock when the person starts presenting.
  • Remember everyone gets the opportunity to speak on the day and needs a minimum of 10-15 mins and 5mins Q&A.
  • Give an indication of hallway mark and 1 minute left so people can wrap up without feeling flustered.
  • Main thing to police is NO SELF PROMOTION – people will want to know more about you based on your insight.
  • Please ask people not to take phone calls at the table (yes it does happen)
  • Thank the speaker and congratulate them.  Some people will be nervous, some very confident.
  • Encourage questions after the speaker.  In general people contribute willingly. Please ask people to be respectful of the speaker and their points of view. Differences of opinion are valuable and should not be avoided. Phrasing is key and probing questions are preferred to abrupt disagreement. As chair you are entitled to intervene, trying not to take side but perhaps rephrasing as a question.
  • Synopsise or highlight some element from the talk as possible icebreaker.
  • Ask a question of your own or add own experience if needed.
  • If you are short a speaker consider calling out one of the posts from the site or ask if anyone wishes to present again.  I don’t see this being necessary but looking at the blog posts in advance will greatly help you and personally I have enjoyed them.
  • Politely move conversations on if one person is monopolising and watch for others who would like to ask questions/comment – see video.
  • A persistent challenge arises when the conversation is opened to the floor and then either the speaker continues to dominate the conversation, or one or two other people engage in a conversation with the speaker, or themselves, and the rest of the group can feel like onlookers.
  • In order to mitigate against this at the beginning of each huddle remind the group that the aim of the huddle is to include everyone’s contribution and to that end, asks everyone in the group to only respond briefly and once to the speaker’s topic, until it’s clear that everyone who wants to contribute has had the opportunity to do so. You can encourage this by making eye contact with everyone in the huddle, especially those she/he’s identified as someone needing encouragement. Then once everyone who wants to has contributed, people can come back in with a second response.
  • We have plenty of time to catch up on over runs during the day.
  • Wrap up the session after the hour.  Frequently it feels unfair to shut down lively discussions at the end of the hour but it is better that people leave wanting more and they can continue the conversation on the way to the next venue.  If possible stick to the schedule as otherwise groups get bunched together.   The weather may also be cold and perhaps wet so best not to leave people waiting outside the venue.  People have 30 mins to get to the next venue (which will take them 30 seconds) so they have plenty of time to chat.
  • Ideally orientate yourself to Cong so you can direct people to their next huddle and be aware of the overall timings for the day.   There is a map on the back of the lanyards.


We have experimented with different way to moderate the timing from green to indicate 5 minutes left and red cards to indicate 30 seconds left too wrap up.  We have also tried alarms on phone.  All of these work well.  I will try to get red and green cards in advance

Remote Access

This year we have 5 remote attendees this year from the US, Canada and the Netherlands who will be dialling in.  It makes more sense to have one remote attendee per huddle and I have picked the ones with the best broadband.

If you have a laptop and a zoom account could you please facilitate at the following venues

  • Puddleducks – Ruairi
  • Ryans – Tony
  • The Irish History Book Store – Alan
  • McHughes – Mike/Barry
  • Danaghers – Richard
  • Lydons – Cormac

You will need to ask for the WIFI codes in advance.  Expect the connections to be wobbly in some venues especially as the day goes on and more people login.  Please move the laptop screen in front of speakers when they are presenting but keep at the top of the table if the speaker is delivering theirs.  My recommendation is to ask the remote access attendees to go earlier as it will be quieter, they will be engaged quicker and chances are they might not be able to stay for the full day (especially as it could be 3am local time).

Otherwise please treat them the same as everyone else.  One thing to note is we might need extension cables to keep your laptop charged or just top up during the breaks.


This year we have 4 workshops during the unconference (during and after the huddles).   The first (Wayfinding with Barre Fitzpatrick) will take place in Ryans during lunch with the huddles from Ryans and The Irish History Bookstore attending.  The other three will take place from 4-5pm (note the last huddle will be reduced to 30 minutes).    We will be guiding people from you huddles to the following locations.

  • Danagher’s Hotel: ‘Fake Purpose’ with Andy Green – Huddles move from Danaghers, Puddleducks and McHughes (Mike)
  • Lydon’s Hotel: ‘Inside the Donut’ with Roisin Markham.  Huddles move from Lydons and McHughes (Barry)
  • Ryans Hotel: The Robot Wrote my Report – AI Content creation by Stephen Howell.   Huddles move from Ryan’s The Irish History Book Store, Togher’s

Event Clash

At 2pm on Saturday rugby International James Ryan will be awarded the Hands of Cong.  This will take place opposite the abbey beside Danaghers.  The reason for pointing this out is it might get busy during that time and some attendees might be late getting you to the 2pm huddle.


At registration I will explain how the spreadsheet (which will be on people lanyards) operates.  The spreadsheet is built around 80+ people attending.  This is spread across 8 venues running at the same time, with four sessions through out the day.  If 3 people present at each huddle this means 96 presentations.  Why is this important.  It means you will have 3 presentations at some and 2 at others. If more or less people arrive on the day we will adjust accordingly – ie if 84 people show each huddle has to accommodate 3 speakers so that everyone presents.  As people register we allocate a number to each person.  They then use the spreadsheet to see what venue they are due in.  This is done so that we can mix the groups up so in theory you will end up with an entirely new group of people at each huddle.  I know this seems complicated but in reality it works out fine. Mathematically some huddles may be down some numbers especially if less people show so please bear that in mind. Some of the really enriched conversation took place in very small huddles.

The first huddle is the hardest to get going and no one wants to jump straight in. A tip from Tony O’Kelly was to hover around the registration area to find some people who will be in your first huddle and agree with them in advance who will present.

I will ask you to put up your hand at the briefing to introduce you and ask people to follow you out to the first huddles.  Please familiarise yourself with the venue during registration so you know where to go and that the room is set up for you.  I will have checked in advance.

Below is the spreadsheet which will be on people name badges/lanyards.  Just in case you are wondering its upside down so when you till up to read it its aligned the right way up.  The instructions for lunch is being served will be on the lanyard.

Recording Insights

The chair role is a busy one and you are on your mental tops of your toes all the time.  However it is also a great opportunity to collate some of the key insights.  After the session if you could document any of the key points it would be appreciated especially for the eBook report.

Advance Preparation

Please reread all the instructions and be clear about the timings.

If possible read the submissions – even the synopsis, which will give you a good handle on what people will be talking about.

Do some dry runs at home so you are comfortable with your script (welcomes, introductions, requests for chairs, moving conversations on). Practice gesture (hand and eye) for moving things on and catching people attention. Chairing can be daunting but if you internalise the processes, timings and your script the more confident you will be and much better positioned to deal with any curve balls.


One of the wonderful aspects of CongRegation is that people can be passionate about their topic. The will also have spent considerable time preparing for CongRegation. However this means that any criticism can potentially be taken personally, even if not meant this way. Some people can tend to be very direct. All exchanges should be respectful/constructive and as chair you have a mandate to intervene before things get too hot. There is a fine line between healthy banter and hurtful comments. You can avoid much of this by explaining the ground rule early and taking early action. Rephrasing of positions, asking questions and allowing people to agree to disagree will help and avoid direct confrontations is possible. One attendee explained to me one year that his presentation evoked strong responses – some loved, one hated. He also explained that he embraced both but if it has happened the previous year it would have set him back. In short some people have strong personalities and we cannot know what is going on in some peoples world.

Off Topic

In general the atmosphere of huddles is very collegial and as everyone is a peer it is egalitarian. However this can also lead to some people opening up with very personal comments about their life status that are off topic. This can be jarring to the chair and group. These should be handled sensitively but not encouraged. Thank people for sharing and point out that we have lots of time build in to explore lots of other areas before guiding back to the theme of Purpose. Again advising that the session is focused on the theme of ‘Purpose’ at the start will minimise this and empower you to bring back on topic.

My closing comments is that your role as chair is extremely important and people look to you to guide and manage the flow and to take action when needed.  This means you have a mandate to make decisions and politely move things on.  If you manage the small things – starting on time, keeping the introductions tight etc it will be easier to assert your presence later on.

Feedback from past attendees is that they really respect chair who keep a tight ship on timekeeping and work hard to include all voices and not allow one or two to dominate.

I once again thank you for time and agreeing to chair.  The event could not run smoothly without it.

6 Minute Running a Huddle Insights

Alec Taylor has kindly put together his tips for running a huddle.  Worth watch especially for flow and managing of timings and getting comfortable with the group.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

16 MILLION COPIES SOLD ‘A book to read, to cherish, to debate, and one that will ultimately keep the memories of the victims alive’ John Boyne, author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas A prominent Viennese psychiatrist before the war, Viktor Frankl was uniquely able to observe the way that both he and others in Auschwitz coped (or didn’t) with the experience. He noticed that it was the men who comforted others and who gave away their last piece of bread who survived the longest – and who offered proof that everything can be taken away from us except the ability to choose our attitude in any given set of circumstances. The sort of person the concentration camp prisoner became was the result of an inner decision and not of camp influences alone. Frankl came to believe man’s deepest desire is to search for meaning and purpose. This outstanding work offers us all a way to transcend suffering and find significance in the art of living.


Purpose without Passion is Pointless #39 #cong22


Discovering Purpose-

What influences purpose can have a serious impact on passion:

Our personal values

Our personal beliefs

Our family of origin influences

Our cultural influences

Our conflict styles

Our personal stress levels

Our personal perceptions

Our individual opinions

Differing wants, needs, expectations

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Preserve purpose and passion-  We can experience the same thing in different ways on different days

  2. Promoting purpose and passion- We are all unique and have our own point of view. Remember purpose and passion- We have a choice in our behaviour/responsibility for consequences

  3. Prevail purpose and passion – There will always be things that make us uncomfortable or fearful, – part of being human

  4. Personalise purpose and passion- Self awareness is key and taking action to improve things

About Lorraine Lally:

Lorraine Lally is from Galway.  Lorraine is a practising barrister with 12 years experience working with clients across all areas of law.  With  a particular interest in family law, immigration law, human rights law and other areas of civil litigation.

She is a qualified mediator and an active member of the National Register for Mediators which is charity seeking to promote mediation and conflict resolution in society including  a funded schools programme for transition year students entitled “I Hear You”.

Lorraine has a passion for youth work and advocacy in the community.  Lorraine is a member of Access for All a group promoting access to services in Galway City and the  current vice chair of the Galway Disability Forum as part of the Galway County Public Participation Network.  She has contributed to advocacy campaigns for the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Disability Federation of Ireland, the Neurological Alliance of Ireland, International Bureau of Epilepsy and Epilepsy Ireland.  She is also a volunteer legal advisor with the Community Law and Mediation Centre in Coolock and Limerick in person and online since the pandemic.  As a member of the International Bureau of Epilepsy Lorraine is the co-chair of the International Youth Team with members from all over the world.

Contacting Lorraine Lally:

You can connect with Lorraine on Twitter and LinkedIn.

By Lorraine Lally

Purpose without passion is pointless. I am often thrilled to meet people with purpose. But those who have purpose with passion rise and shine above us all. Someone with passion is precious a diamond in the rough with the potential to change the world.  I often think of the first man who excited me with his passion and I wondered how I could get some of what he had?  I asked him and he told me it involved a devotion to truth and reconciling the world is not perfect but we carry on in passion.  He knew that with passion you can inform a purpose and bring others with you in the purpose.

My purpose and passion a person who enables change and to be an advocate and facilitator for others.   As a mediator my role is to enable and engage with parties who are in conflict.  When you think of passion you might wonder how can a mediator retain the passion through seeing the process through to the end and when you reach reconciliation it is magnificent.

When I often work with couples with children on a parenting plan. I am a witness of  the love and care that they have for their children. The purpose is not always the same but that passion for a future and a new dawn is always present even if it covered with anger and fear.

Mediation is the purposeful process in the world because it involves entering conflict to use the tools on the mediation belt.  As humans we seek to belong and to have a connection.  The importance of being understood is fundamental to build trust with others.

‘I can talk to you because you’re prepared to understand me’.  This permits me to see and recognise the purpose of others. If we are all moving with purpose none of us are moving alone.

Knowledge is the ultimate power to fuel purpose and passion. We all need to take the time to  develop knowledge of each other to respect and value those who support our purpose.

I recently volunteered with newly arrived migrants from Ukraine and dealt with a  mother in tears seeking a pray mat and the Quran it turned out that no one had asked the religion of the new arrivals. She wanted to pray for her son and husband at home. She was filled with a purpose when I got the permission to let her borrow the mat and the Quran.

My grandmother told me a stranger was only a stranger until you make the effort to make them a friend. I have a diverse and fun group of friends.  It is important that we do not to assume a person identifies or belongs to a particular group/culture. We have a duty based on our shared humanity to show appreciation and respect for diversity.

There are great benefits of diversity for society and for building a more purpose filled vision of our future. This diversity includes people and innovation to resolve the passion needed for climate action to happen.

If we focus on our commonalities we live a purposeful life as a community.  Makes me think of the sisters out there from Ethiopia, France, Australia, Sweden, Iran, Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, Spain,Scotland, Iraq, Pakistan, and other countries around the world looking to improve healthcare for women.

Self awareness to stereotypes, prejudice & subconscious biases is important we often look at others seeing difference instead of the similarities that bring us together.

Of course I am practical in my thinking we can similar and be different.

We can agree to love each other and still disagree on the plan for the future.

Agreeing that you see things differently is acceptable in a respectful manner as our beliefs are our own to be protected.

We will listen to all persons including children to provide the respect for human purpose.

After all  each point of view is legitimate and acknowledged

You can talk to me and I can share with you then the purpose can be made real with others.

Talking and sharing concerns is vital to making sure that passion and purpose remain in your personal and professional life.

For those of you who have not had the benefit of the purposeful friendship where your friend is there for you to support your passion and bring to life new purposes.

Is there a Purpose to Find Purpose? #38 #cong22


The world is what it is today mainly because many people have refused to accept things the way they are and keep trying finding answers to our everyday dilemmas. In such a process we may find the all desired purpose that has been waiting for us, only to find out that perhaps there is more than one.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Never supress curiosity
  2. Never be afraid to ask questions
  3. Keep an open mind while looking for a purpose in life
  4. There may be more than just one purpose.

About David Iguaz:

Studied to be an archaeologist but circumstances steered me towards the ceramic industry in Portugal. Apart from my bread earner I try to be useful in environmental activism as well as to try and raise the political awareness of the population.

Contacting David Iguaz:

You can contact David by email.

By David Iguaz

Is there a purpose to our existence? If so, it seems sensible to try and find out what that would be. On the contrary if there isn’t one the whole exercise could prove in fact to be a little futile. However are we asking the right questions? and most importantly, do those questions matter? I am truly convinced that is always meaningful to keep asking questions even if that implies showing some degree of ignorance which for some reason sometimes goes hand in hand with a certain feeling of insecurity. When we are younger questions seem to be floating permanently in the air like pending questions marks which must be caught to further our understanding of our surroundings. From the moment we become aware of our surroundings we embark on a discovery quest which involves asking endless questions specially at an early stage in our lives when the world around us opens up and reveals parts of its secrets.

As life moves on the level of questioning seems to decrease proportionally to the ageing process. This process is a mystery to me. Maybe is due to increased awareness of our environment, social constraints or simply an admittance that things are just the way they are. In the long run this attitude of surrender can only have negative consequences for our mental wellbeing. If we still manage to keep an inquisitive mind that is. Otherwise, ignorance will be bliss. Albeit somewhat redundant we should also ask ourselves what purpose truly means. For simplicity´s sake let´s assume that it implies conceding meaning to our existence fulfilling objectives, desires and dreams conferring an overall sense of achievement.

Despite agreeing with Darwin as regards the fact that we are in this world to secure the survival of our very selves and ultimately the survival of our species and also the fact that we are here due to a long and complex evolutionary purpose that is part of an ongoing experiment, I also believe this is indissociable to the very nature of keeping asking questions and try and make sense of it all. Maybe if is just to achieve just that, our survival. I ignore if the constant surge of questions will tell us if there is a purpose to our existence, but one thing is for sure, not asking them will keep us further from finding out. The why and the how will always be powerful search tools.

To be perfectly honest with you I do not pretend to answer the question poised at the heading of the essay, but I sincerely hope that a hint will be construed by the end of it. One way to get there is to observe and carefully analyze everything that goes around you permanently. It may seem obvious but sometimes the trees do not let us see the forest. Believe me, observing is crucial to everything. This advice comes from someone who has been useless at it from most of his life. Without such a tool the questions will not arise, and we will fall into the generalized complacency that seems to be all around us nowadays. Three things that have helped me improve my observation abilities are undoubtedly travelling (in terms of a learning process as supposed from moving from one place to another oblivious to the signs around us), reading and living in diverse environments. All of them profusely. I admit there has been a certain degree of luck in such a journey although it must be said that some of that luck had to be found first. What I mean is that sometimes luck must be sought after and is not just always willing to knock at your door disinterested. Most of us do not realize how fortunate we are to be born in this wonderful part of the planet called Europe taking things for granted like living on much more than a mere 10 $ a day like 50% of our planet´s population. That should not stop us from trying to improve our lives and the lives of others continuously specially when it comes to inner knowledge.

The more that my life is lived the more I come to the conclusion that the means of trying to achieve meaning or purpose is as important as the end itself or perhaps even more. Again, complacency is always lurking in the background and we should always carry some level of dissatisfaction with us in order to push us harder and forward towards that goal. During the process of writing this paper I have come to realize that not only there is a purpose to what we do but there may be many purposes waiting for us out there. Finding purpose may well turn out to be a never-ending quest for the inquisitive mind. Nothing wrong with that.

Which Way From Here? #37 #cong22


Traditionally, we looked to our work or our faith for our sense of purpose, but when these fail us, we must look somewhere else instead.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. For most of us, our sense of purpose is not satisfied by either work or faith.
  2. As a result, the ways in which we seek our purpose has changed.
  3. Now that we can relate to the whole world through ever-expanding media of communication, we are often tempted to retreat to a self-centred sense of purpose.
  4. Choosing to relate to the whole world requires a generous spirit, and a real commitment to give and take.

About Gerard Tannam:

Gerard Tannam leads Islandbridge Brand Development (www.Islandbridge.com), a team of specialists working to build great relationships in the marketplace that bridge the gap between buyers and sellers.

Contacting Gerard Tannam:

You can connect with Gerard on LinkedIn, see his work in Islandbridge or send him an email. 

By Gerard Tannam

“Could you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” asked Alice.

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where-“said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“- so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.

Once upon a time, many of us found our purpose in our work or in our faith. I say ‘found’ when, of course, I really mean that we often had it thrust upon us by our family and our community. For most of us, in those far off days of scratching about for a living, it was largely a question of survival, getting by both a means and an end, a somewhat joyless existence when you think about it. And whilst we were busy surviving, a small number with time on our hands – the appointed and the self-appointed alike – busied ourselves in exploring our world and seeking a sense of purpose that might reach past simply getting by.

When that world itself wasn’t enough and gave us no answers only pointers, we looked further afield. We pictured worlds beyond this one, places and people who might help us make sense of our everyday lives. But when one day in the fields or at the workbench is added to another, and then to another again, and hardly seems to amount to much, it’s only natural that we dream of neverlands or wonderlands where we might instead find our purpose. Which brings us back to Alice and those not so faraway nineteenth century days when more and more of us, and not just the appointed ones, had time on our hands to question the meaning of it all.

When we returned like Alice from our adventures down the rabbit hole and realised that there were no answers to be found there only questions, and when those who ordain the work that we do and the faith that we follow no longer inspired our confidence, we were left once again to seek our purpose with this world only as our reference.

As we look around this world and we ask ourselves what purpose we might have, most of us are drawn to consider first what we want from the people, the creatures and the places closest to us. This sense of purpose is often self-centred, concerned more with what we get than what we give. Until we realise that this is unsatisfactory, and that we are more likely to be truly satisfied only when we establish relationships that are more give and take.

For most of us, we get our sense of purpose from one another, from the relationships which we form with the people, the creatures and the places that make up our world. And as the media through which we relate to the world brings us closer to the wider world, many of us find that our sense of purpose has grown to concern how we relate to everyone and everything everywhere in the world.

This can be hugely daunting, even overwhelming, and it’s tempting for us to retreat to our starting point, to a self-centred take on the people, and the creatures and the places that make up our world, rather than the more expansive one to which we are naturally drawn.

Choosing to relate to the whole world takes courage. It requires a generous spirit. If we choose to relate with those other people, creatures and places, we must do it with a real commitment to both give and take. When it comes to the work we do, we and the world are best served when its purpose corresponds to our overall sense of purpose in the world. If it doesn’t, it leaves most of us deeply dissatisfied.

Balancing Purpose with Profit – B Corporations #36 #cong22


In my opinion, B Corps is our one of the great opportunity to tackling the climate change and social injustice by providing an accessible process to assist businesses to change to a more sustainable and purpose-led culture. If you want to know the best way to balance Purpose for good with the desire to turn a Profit in your business then please consider becoming a B Corp. Business with purpose outperform the market by 45%. Imagine what a business with ‘purpose for good’ can achieve!!

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Businesses must radically change if climate action can be achieved. ‘Purpose for good’ should be at the core of every business to enable this necessary change while still balancing the desire to make profits. This is where becoming a B-Corp will help to balance purpose with profits
  2. Business with purpose outperform the market by 45%. Imagine what a business with ‘purpose for good’ can achieve
  3. B-Labs provide a ready-made structure to assist business to become a B-Corporation by enabling the systematic change while balancing Purpose and Profits for the benefit of our planet and people
  4. Business with a ‘purpose for good’ certification can attract and retain more talent while providing a measurable positive impact on community and the environment which translates directly into employee well-being. What is not to like about that!

About Sean Brady:

I have been remote working for 20 years and moved our IT service company to the next level in 2017 by going 100% remote with a ‘no visit’ rule to any customers or suppliers. This radical move was triggered by our involvement in the EU Climate Launchpad competition where we pose the question “Why do we need to meet in-person to do business?”. This purpose has lead me to the community of B Corporations.
We are now working with WDC, Trinity College Dublin and Microsoft on developing an AI solution to help businesses to assist Hybrid Working by avoiding unnecessary travel to the office and then donating the time saved from not travelling to local communities projects and charities for the benefit of society and the environment, this solution is called HybridAssist which is on it’s way to become a B-Corp.

Contacting Sean Brady:

You can connect with Sean on LinkedIn.

By Sean Brady

I am a big fan of Social Enterprises who, by their nature, have a very well developed purpose for the benefit of society however this is often missing in for-profit businesses. Becoming a B-Corp is a powerful way to embed ‘purpose for good’ into a for-profit business while balancing the understandable need to make a profit.

But. first, here’s the definition provided by the B Labs, the nonprofit behind B Corporations as follows.

Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. The B Global Network’s Theory of Change is to transform the economic system into a more inclusive, equitable, and regenerative global economy.

It is this ability to create a framework to balance purpose for good with profit making objectives that is the core value of becoming a B Corp which can deliver against varying areas of impact such as Community, Environment and Workers. So, when we ask ourselves ‘what is the purpose of business’, B Corps provide a system to create a balanced purpose which is not just about how much profit that can be made without considering the negative impact on our planet and people.

Being a founder of a few for-profit businesses, which are currently measured predominately by revenue growth and profit margins, it is so very easy to blind ourselves to the negative impact of doing business. Of course, if you are part of a non-profit or social enterprise then you are measured on your social impact however most for-profit businesses develop tunnel vision on quarterly revenue and profits to the detriment of everything else. B-Corps marries these two company types into a single structure with the benefits of both along with a certification process that provides the governance to ensure that this is not a white or green-washing exercise.

As we have heard from the discussions at COP27 in Egypt where representatives talk about the critical need for business to change so that climate change can be managed yet there is little practical advice to business. This is where B-Corps is the answer with Purpose for Good frameworks which are ready to be adopted for both small and large businesses in order to change the way organisations and society measures their activity while giving a clear definition of purpose to their employees and stakeholders.

I would like to state that I have no vested interest in B Labs and would also like to say that I am not an expert in this area but having the experience of creating both non-profit and for-profit business, this system of certification and governance is the best and most accessible solution that I have seen. So, if nothing else, I hope that by reading this article then it may have ignited your interest to investigate this approach further and apply this to where you work or will help you to select your next employer by these standards so you can evaluate them through this new lens to see their purpose for good.

My advice to get started is to secure senior buy-in at your company who have the commitment and passion to define and achieve their ‘Purpose for Good’ so it can be cascaded through the business, from the top down. It is all there for you on the B Corp website with a guided assessment process and material to help you to begin your journey to change the purpose of the business while balancing the original business objectives for growth. If you are a senior person in the organisation then this should be a non-brainer as there are plenty of well documented business benefits of becoming a B-Corp.

According to the book ‘Powered by Purpose’ by Sarah Rozenthuler, which Eoin Kennedy kindly lent to me to get my creative juices flowing, states that businesses with a purpose outperform the market by 45%. Imagine what a business with a purpose for good can do when it comes to talent attraction and retention by improving employee psychological well-being and productivity. The B-Corp system combined with their certified data driven process that goes far beyond just having a basic purpose statement. It may even help you to find a higher purpose that you had not even thought possible when we compete in this profit focused business world. You may surprise yourself. For the megalomaniacs out there, there is even a competition for ‘Best in the World’ so make it your purpose to start your journey today to become a B-Corp.

Having to Re-Purpose #35 #cong22


How a trauma in my life caused me to re-evaluate my purpose.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Finding happiness.
  2. How major events can alter your idea of purpose.
  3. Connecting with others can drive your sense of purpose.
  4. Connecting with nature adds to a sense of fulfillment.

About Claire Golden:

I’m a mother to four wonderful boys. I live and have always lived in the Dublin mountains. I enjoy swimming, hillwalking and generally being outdoors. I love socialising and good music.

Contacting Claire Golden:

You can contact Claire by email.

By Claire Golden

Most of us have a purpose in our life at some stage. As we travel through life we can enjoy the purpose of living, whatever that means to us. I think we are here to make the best of life and if we don’t have a purpose we tend to drift which is fine for a while, this could be the time where we are trying to find our purpose or want to change it. We can be guided by the people around us or a love for something or perhaps inherit it from our parents. Either way, we all should have a purpose to keep us motivated. Life throws many things in our path and sometimes we have to re-purpose and it’s not always by choice.

I thought life was wonderful, I was healthy, happy, reasonably fit and comfortable with my lot. I was married to a man who was my best friend. When our children came along, we decided I would care and rear them at home. This became my purpose in life, I was happy and felt I was making a difference to the way our children would grow up.

Life moved on and we were very busy with four active teenagers when things changed for us. My husband was diagnosed with an extremely rare tumour which he bravely fought for eighteen months until he lost his battle two weeks before Covid shut down. Six months before he died, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was on treatment, grieving and in lockdown. Unusual time for everyone, but in my eyes my world had just collapsed.

I had plenty of time to think, probably too much time. Why was I still here? What was life’s purpose for me now? I was heartbroken and at a very low ebb with treatment. It was a challenging time. My children would grow and move on with their lives, my husband and I had great plans for when he retired, I had lost my closest friend. I really found it hard to find happiness, I had lost my purpose in Life.

As we started to come out of Lockdown, I decided I had to re-purpose, which to me meant getting out and interacting with others. I joined a sea swimming group which has brought great healing to me. I try to centre my leisure time around a swim. It has brought immense purpose and pleasure to my life mentally, physically and socially. This new purpose is helping me retrieve my confidence, build on my health and well being, focus on trying to find happiness again, reminding me to smile even when I don’t feel like it, a feeling of achievement and being in touch with nature on the long swims, meet new people who have since become great friends, to look out for others and care as everyone has a story, to be kind and share laughs at our chats and hot beverages afterwards, a sense of fulfillment.

I know this is only the start of my new purpose, I intend building on what I’m learning from others and reaching out to do other things.

Life is for living, spend time doing the things that make you feel happy to be alive.

This new experience for me is what I think Purpose is all about…..Motivating yourself to be yourself.

Purpose In An Uncomprehending Universe. #34 #cong22


As a space-focused STEAM communicator, I argue that the vast and creepily silent universe we have revealed through science shouldn’t be a reason for feelings of despair or insignificance, but of specialness and purpose.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. You are made of the universe
  2. Generations of stars died so that you may live.
  3. So far as we have verifiably discovered, life and intelligence exist only here.
  4. We owe it to the rest of the insensate universe to experience and understand as much of reality as we can.

About Brendan Caulfield:

A lifelong science fiction nerd, I bounced through the pinball table of life from meaningless job to meaningless job until I found steam workshop facilitation.

Now I find peace and fulfilment in igniting the spark of curiosity and creativity in young minds.

I love space science and engineering, TV and film production design, computer games, and 3D printing.

If I could wave a magic wand, I’d be a Starfleet officer or a pioneering Mars colonist.

Contacting Brendan Caulfield:

You can connect  with Brendan on Twitter or send him an email.

By Brendan Caulfield

Finding Purpose In An Infinite Cosmos

I’m a space-nut and a hobbyist astronomer. I grew up watching Star Trek and other sci-fi on TV and thinking that the real life universe was a bit bland in comparison.

About 15 years ago, I started taking an interest in the reality of space travel and the universe – thanks to a combo of finding my brother’s old telescope in the attic, watching Carl Sagan’s seminal 1980 docuseries “Cosmos”, and the first credible rumblings of renewed space exploration ambition coming from the private sector.

What I realised as I absorbed more and more science information about deep space phenomena and the evolution of galaxies, stars, planets, and nebulae, was that I wasn’t learning about some abstract, out-there, irrelevant construct that is completely divorced from lived reality… I was learning about us – I was learning about me.

And… I was learning about you.

Look at your hand. It’s a collection of meat, sinew, and bone. Those materials are made of molecules. Those molecules are arrangements of atoms that used to be part of the Earth or the air, until they were eaten or breathed, by you or your parent (or your food’s food’s food) and eventually found themselves arranged by astonishing natural processes of chemistry and physics into the structure you are probably now inspecting and wiggling and feeling a bit alien about.

But wait, where did the atoms come from that comprise the molecules that constitute this strange meat-spider that you puppeteer on the end of your equally mysterious arm?

The obvious, and correct – but incomplete – answer, is the Big Bang.

The Big Bang is the origin of all matter in the universe, but the matter created at that instant 13.82 billion years ago was mostly in the form of the simplest elements like hydrogen and helium. It was almost completely smoothly distributed throughout the universe, but minor density variations caused some regions to have more gravitational pull than others, causing the gas to collapse in on itself and ignite the nuclear fusion furnace of the first generation of stars.

Furnaces are an apt metaphor for stars because, just as furnaces forge new alloys, stars forge simple, light elements into heavier ones – and then, with a bit more effort, fuses those into even heavier ones.

Stars are stuff-making machines, taking fuel like that abundant hydrogen and helium, and making heavier elements like oxygen, carbon, calcium, potassium, sodium, etc. fusing progressively heavier elements in the unimaginable heat and pressure deep within.

As the matter in a star is converted to heavier elements, it takes ever more heat and pressure produce ever-heavier atoms. The process stops short in and around the production of lead, which is so hard to make that the star quickly runs out of fuel.

The fusion furnace at the heart of a star is very much the same kind of fusion that occurs in a fusion bomb, but it is continuous. For as long as there is stuff to fuse, it fuses and explodes, fuses and explodes, non-stop, for millions or billions of years.

It’s the tenuous balance between the inward-pulling force of gravity and the outward-pushing force of that constant explosion that keeps the star spherical in shape.

Once the fusion explosion stops, gravity “wins the fight” and the star collapses in on itself. This final collapse (among other similar processes) is where most of the heaviest elements like gold and uranium are made. In those few moments (literally seconds or minutes) that it takes for the squelching gravity of the star to pull the now-unsupported bulk of its matter down on itself, falling matter collides with enough punch to fuse the heavier stuff.

The fall ends when the star’s matter bounces off the core in one last titanic fusion explosion It’s so powerful that it sprays the matter comprising the star (all the “stuff” its lifetime of progressively-harder fusion has produced), into the surrounding space as swiftly-cooling gas and dust.

That gas and dust eventually collapses to form new stars and planets, and some of those stars live out their life cycles and explode too, adding to the soup of fusion-enriched star-guts floating thinly in space. These cyclical births and deaths of stars gradually filled the universe with the ingredients for rocky planets and fleshy apes like us…

… And yet in all of that, we haven’t yet found credible evidence of other intelligent life forms.

We are animate star-matter that has evolved through gravity, fusion, and natural selection to the point of being able to comprehend our own atomic nature and origin… “a way for the cosmos to know itself”, as Carl Sagan so peerlessly expressed it… but we seem to be alone. In a vast and apparently uncomprehending universe, we apparently have the only eyes, the only ears, the only hands, and the only brains capable of synthesizing what our senses tell us into a convincing estimation of reality.

To hope to comprehend even 1% of what we now believe to be the extent of reality is ludicrously ambitious, but if it’s purpose you seek, what better is there than this:

To be the universe’s senses. To learn and experience as much as is accessible to us. To live well and learn always and pay back the good fortune of our own existence by aiming to know as much as can be known.

That’s what I call purpose.

Accidentally or on purpose? Purpose is a Stream not a Compass, and you’ve the Agency to Direct it. #33 #cong22


“when live gives you lemons, hand the lemons back to life and tell life you want something better to work with”

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Your purpose is not defined you have agency to chose it

  2. Its ok for things to be messy

  3. Think stream rather than compass or rock

  4. Purpose will shift and evolve, ebb and flow

  5. If you’re not following your purpose you’re following someone elses

  6. Remember the lemons

About Dermot Casey:

Dermot is into fourth role since he first came to CongRegation. A husband of one and father of three he  helps people imagine, figure out, and then create the future. At work he’s an Advisor, Innovator, Investor, Teacher, Mentor. In life a Catalyst, Synthesist and ever Curious. 

Contacting Dermot Casey:

You can connect  with Dermot on Mastodon, Twitter and  LinkedIn or contact him on by email

By Dermot Casey

Purpose. The word hangs there like the sword of Damocles shouting “WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE?”. While the softer voice whispers “if you don’t have a clear one are you even playing the game of life?” At 18 we put students through a mill where they need start defining the purpose of their lives. That has been brought sharply back in to focus recently as our eldest just finished school and our second in sixth year. To try and ease the pressure I point out that its OK to be uncertain and to reassure them that things will work out. The difference now with the younger version of me is that I’m comfortable with that.

Purpose is often seen as an external scaffolding, an exoskeleton for life. The magic formula is to find your purpose and meaning, do what you were meant to do, and bingo, be happy. The US talks about the pursuit of happiness almost as if it’s something that must be hunted down and captured and clung on to tightly. Life (and psychology) teaches us otherwise. Happiness– as opposed to pleasure – is not to be pursued but is a by-product of living life. It comes from getting absorbed in the work that that you do. Even this connection between purpose and work is a curious one.

One tale about work and purpose is the three bricklayers. A traveller came upon three people working. He asks the first person what they were doing and the person said they were laying bricks. He asked the second person the same question and she said she was putting up a wall. When he got to the third person and asked them what they were doing he said he was building a cathedral. Theres a similar story is about John F Kennedy touring NASA and asking a cleaner what he did “I’m sending a man to the moon Mr President”.

These tales are used to push that transcendent concept of purpose, that defining mission that North Star. Colour me a little sceptical. I like the first-person laying their bricks. They’re a great bricklayer. I imagine they take immense pride in their work and in their tools. They’re good at it. Have you ever watched a skilled bricklayer at work? It’s quite something.  Their work gives them the factors that people find fulfilling, a sense of autonomy, mastery and relationships. An internal motor, a chosen purpose, rather than an externally driven one.  And that OK.  I suspect some element of the attraction of purpose is that it creates an illusion of order and control in our lives, an illusion that was once created by religion.

You have no defined purpose. Really. There’s no fixed purpose of your life until you pick one. There are gurus the mystics, the self-help and wellness people, selling you on Purpose, (possibly along with some apps for a mere €7.99, some books or other faux-spiration nonsense). What you do have is agency.  The power to choose in each circumstance, the bit in your life between sense and response. In Gregory David Roberts’ “Shantaram” in the opening scene he describes being tortured by prison guards and realising that he has the power to decide how to respond in that moment, to decide how he feels about the people who are torturing him. And it redefines his life.

The purpose of your life is what you chose it to be. Taste, habit and circumstance may circumscribe it. In many ways the world conspires to take away your agency. Culture and society force you down certain paths and certain choices sometimes quite brutally sometimes even using the law as a weapon of brutality. How many women’s careers were cut short before the marriage ban was removed by the EU. And purpose doesn’t have to be static or singular.  Viktor Frankls notion is that “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” Life can also be made bearable by people as well as purpose and purpose can be many things large and small. You get to choose.

The regrets people have at the end of their life “working too hard”, “not having the courage to express their feelings”, “not living life true to myself not to follow others expectations” are regrets of denial of their own agency, whether it be through circumstance, custom, family, society or fear.

We need to allow for and celebrate the messiness of life.  The advice to “follow your dreams” can be the worst sort of advice. It can also be the best. It depends. Sometimes purpose comes at the start of something, sometimes it can come after. Sometimes the small p leads to a bigger p. Sometimes purpose is good. Sometimes it can be bad. Sometimes it’s in reaction to things that have happened. Covid ripped open the fabric of our lives and we weave it back differently with the threads we have. Be careful as the old Despair poster goes that it not the case that “the purpose of your life is to serve as a warning to others”. Purpose shifts and evolves. You don’t have to start with why. You can start with what, when, where, why or “oh that’s interesting”.

My own superpowers include curiosity and persistence. I went to college to study Physics and fell in love with Computer Science. I joined the ESB out of college thinking it’d be fun to work on power systems. I spent the first six months putting entries into a data dictionary in a job that was in many ways more awful (if also considerably less smelly) than my job as hospital porter.  I did an MBA partly because of a bad snowfall where we were the only couple to turn up at a 30th birthday party. And I ended up top of that class because of my own internal motor. I started lecturing after the MBA as I thought “I can do a better job than the guy who taught us Information Systems”. I did. I had to get over my own naivety and had to develop a whole new set of skills to do so but that’s a different story.

Curiosity led to Twitter, and redundancy and Twitter led to Storyful. There’s a lesson in there too. If you’re not following your own purpose, you’re following someone else’s. That led to NDRC and finally where I am now, which links way back to questions I posed when I did my MBA. As Liam Neeson might say “what I have are a very particular set of skills that I have acquired over a long career”. They haven’t been assembled with a single grand purpose. Each in its turn has been developed purposefully.

We’re told “One who has a ‘why’ to live for can endure almost any ‘how’” which is fine for when we’re in extremis. But optimising for the habits of life that will allow you survive a concentration camp is probably not the best approach to living. Agency says to hell with enduring the why and lets make things better. Or as my second child says “when live gives you lemons, hand the lemons back to life and tell life you want something better to work with”

I have a set of statements that I borrowed from @RowanManahan and have used a few times over the years. The original is here My own version of it now reads.

  • Follow your curiosity
  • Build and master your tools
  • Share your toys
  • Find playmates (and some who are) smarter than you are
  • Leave every place better than you found it
  • Make magic

The Paradox of Purpose #32 #cong22


Purpose is a heavy topic and has been so for millennia. It also carries a lot of baggage; for example, value judgements of “goodness”.
Both for individuals and organizations, purpose is a powerful and useful ‘guiding’ force. Embrace it, but do so wisely.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Purpose is foundational—it is the bedrock on which character is built. And yet it is also a constant work in progress.
  2. Purpose should be resilient—not fickle. And yet it should (and very well is) very dynamic.
  3. Purpose is unique and personalized. And yet it is also connective, unifying, and shared within an organization or community, or even a coalition.
  4. Like waves, purpose reacts with those it touches. It reflects, refracts, and diffracts. We can control how we project our purpose, yet its consequence and impact depends deeply on the reaction of others.

About Paul Ellingstad:

As Managing Partner of PTI Advisors, Paul accompanies leaders who want to innovate and grow while effectively navigating personal, organisational, societal and planetary change. He is a veteran of the technology sector and worked at iconic brands Gateway, Compaq, and HP. He is a lifelong learner and a systems thinker, who is passionate about mentoring and intergenerational collaboration to achieve sustainable development. Paul is a fellow in the Aspen Institute’s Business & Society Program, he serves as a director on several boards, he is a youth leadership advocate and a life-long member of the Scouting movement.

Contacting Paul Ellingstad:

You can connect with Paul on Twitter and LinkedIn or send him an email

By Paul Ellingstad

Purpose often feels like a weighty subject.  Truth be told, it is. For millennia, great minds as well as common folk have pondered, debated, and offered points of view about purpose. The language and terminology may vary— meaning of life is one particularly well-trod version— but it’s all arguably within the realm of purpose.

Purpose is frequently described as the North Star for individuals (as well as organizations) searching to define their unique identity and reason for being.  In a disruptive, ever-changing world, there is comfort in the feeling that purpose is a constant– a strong, stable point of reference on which we can rely, no matter the winds of change swirling around us. But how constant is purpose, or should it be, in such a dynamic world as ours?  Is rigidity reasonable, or is adaptability a more preferrable trait for individuals and organizations seeking to define, declare, and live & work with clarity of purpose?

In this fast-moving age of sound bites and short attention spans, discovering (or defining) and conveying purpose and then living by it daily, seems challenging at the best of times. Perhaps our time & attention poverty has also contributed to the pursuit of short cuts and less sincere attempts to define purpose and live so? There is both a deep, thoughtful, seriousness to purpose, which defines and declares who we are and why we exist.  But to be useful, purpose also needs to be practical, applicable, and accessible—to everyone. It cannot be reserved for philosophical discussions or part of the branding work in business.  It is hard going to distil purpose—whether for individual or for organization—into something clear and true, which is then put it into practice. But recognizing that need and committing the time and effort to do it “right” is half the battle.  One long-time exemplar of “getting it right” is David Packard’s informal talk with HP employees in 1960.  Timeless.  A (much) more recent compilation of examples that are also codified into a blueprint of sorts is Putting Purpose into Practice. The consultancy SVI even has a playbook to assist aspiring businesses.

“Times they are a changin’”, and our purpose changes with the times as well.  Was your self-defined purpose (or aspiration) at the age of 18 the same today?  Does the 100-year-old company— or even 10 year old company— have the same customers, service offering, employees and investors, and mission now?  Adapting and evolving with the times should equally apply to purpose—if purpose is to be relevant and true.  Kira Newman’s illuminating work dives deeply into this through the lens of the individual. Through the organizational lens, while short-termism, e.g. quarterly focus is common criticism of business, the purpose evolution seems to take a bit longer. Fifty-two years ago, the Economist Milton Friedman (in)famously declared that the one and only social responsibility of business was to increase profits, often referred to now as “shareholder primacy” doctrine.  In 2019, the Business Roundtable published a new, redefined purpose of a corporation.  The progress of BR members’ progress remains closely watched and scrutinized.  The evolution of purpose—as declared by the Business Roundtable—provides a great example of both the timing (decades, not quarters!) typically involved in such change and also the nature of collective purpose.

Once in a while though, we can get a bit carried away—both individually as well as organizationally.  It’s useful to pause and reflect—do a bit of a sense check—if we’re getting too serious or even just completely off track with purpose. Sometimes the extrapolation of purpose just doesn’t cut the mustard… or the mayonnaise!

That said, purpose is extremely useful and powerful. It enables individuals and organizations to clarify vision, define identity, exist, and contribute in an intentional way.  We inherently associate purpose with judgements about value and goodness, but purpose is fundamentally descriptive, and in a complex, wildly dynamic world, purpose too adapts and evolves—despite the value we place on stability, durability, and certainty.  Purpose is both rock and wave— a steady foundation that grounds us and an enormous force in motion.  Embrace both the gravity of purpose and the lift it provides for how we live and work.

Why Systems Continue to Undermine our Purpose #31 #cong22


In complex systems, it is hard to act with purpose, and much harder to ensure that our actions will have their intended consequences. If society is to evolve into something better, ordinary people must feel empowered to contribute. Our hierarchical systems and our culture just need to get out of the way of good people. We need to create a fault tolerant culture that celebrates the effort, regardless of how any individual attempt turns out.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. The interconnectedness of systems makes it difficult for an individual to make a difference
  2. Those closest to the action struggle the most
  3. Quantity of experimentation leads to quality of outcomes
  4. Those who have found their purpose need to encourage and embolden others

About Damian Costello:

I’ve spent 30 years as a consultant in Product Design, Disruptive Innovation and Corporate Strategy. Serving mainly multi-nationals based in Ireland, my work has taken me all over the world. In the past I have contributed to the consumerism that fuels most of the environmental and social degradation we see all around us.
As part of my reparations to society, it is now my mission to help usher in a new healthcare paradigm. A new system of wellness management and illness prevention to replace the inefficiency and exploitation of the current illness management industry that dominates our lives and the world’s economy.

Contacting Damian Costello:

You can reach Damian by email.

By Damian Costello

There are two types of events, or objects, in this world; those that were created on purpose, and those that were created by accident. Those created by design, or those created thoughtlessly. In today’s world, people seem to be too easily seduced by mindless, ill-informed jerks in popular culture and in politics. However easy it is to blame people for their poor judgement, we must remember just how hard it is to act with purpose in a complex, interconnected environment, and how much harder it is to ensure that actions have their intended consequences.

To illustrate the challenges facing anyone trying to live their best purpose in a world that is resistant to idealism, I would like, to share a story from work colleagues did in the NHS. Work that highlights the fragility of artificial systems, and how ordinary people are precluded from making real improvements. Indeed, it is those closest to the action that struggle the most in systems that steal their enthusiasm and leave them exhausted and demoralised.

The research uncovered that from the time a doctor at a bedside told a patient that they could go home, to them walking out the door, there were over 140 official process steps. On review, the reason turned out to be simple but pernicious. With the original architects of the system long gone, and their original design intentions long forgotten, later generations of clinicians and administrators did not have the confidence or the authority to rewrite the underlying procedural sequence. Instead, if a step in that sequence proved inefficient or detrimental, the users would stick in a five or six step workaround to overcome the issue.

The Law of Unintended Consequences being what it is, meant that the new ‘solution’ triggered previously unseen issues which in turn triggered further workarounds. After years of well-intentioned hacking, the NHS discharge process had become unusably complex. Yet, no one dared take out a step because they knew they’d get all the blame for anything that went wrong and none of the credit for anything that went right. So, they just kept adding workarounds, because, even if an additional patch made the system more dangerous, the one who added it would not be blamed.
Health services the world over have evolved using this warped logic. This is how the NHS, and no doubt the HSE in Ireland have become both bloated and fragile at the same time. Eventually they all get to a point where they are no longer fit for purpose, but nobody really knows what to do with them, and in Ireland at least, there is no political will to start over. In other domains, such as free market economics, such bloated constructs collapse under their own weight and are quickly replaced by a swarm of new, more experimental offerings. In these commercial scenarios there is little or no sympathy for those who lose out, but in broader society we cannot afford to be so heartless. If we are to see society evolve into something better. If ordinary people are to feel empowered to contribute to that evolution, then we need to create environments where those who want to act with a true sense of purpose, feel the rewards are worth the risks.

The world is a very large and complex place in which to operate. The unfathomable interconnectedness of our political, economic, and social systems makes it very difficult for a purposeful individual to make a difference, and even where it is possible to institute change the outcome may not be what was hoped for. The only way complex systems evolve is through experimentation and the best way to accelerate that evolution is to do more experiments. Quantity leads to quality in times of complex systems change, so anyone who is moved to try to improve things should be encouraged. Our hierarchical systems and our culture just need to get out of the way of good people, their numbers and their humanity will do the rest.

The lesson then, is that those who have already found their purpose and who have summoned the will to act, need to share their stories with as many others as they possibly can, because the changes we need in the world today are too much for any one individual no matter how rich, arrogant, or interplanetary a jerk they are.