How the Ikigai Concept Aligns All Areas of Your Business For Meaningful Growth
It's a big word. Not so much in terms of length, but for what it implies. The big idea behind it.
It's a word that has impacted my entire professional life. As a heart-centered leader my entire career, I've always encouraged people to search deep for the reasons they show up to work each day, and to find meaning in their job besides money, title or stature. Then, in November 2020, I decided to launch my own business, leadership, and personal coaching business to align myself more towards it.
It's innately a human concept; a powerful one that mankind has always gravitated towards as a central theme of existence. It dances around the same table as destiny, hopes and dreams. Top athletes, great artists, and historic leaders have all attributed their successes to having a driving sense of it fuel them in their most challenging moments.
But as a global business community, have we been able to maximize the benefits that purpose can bring to organizations? Is there an opportunity, especially in these times, to integrate a deeper sense of it into the corporate world?
The pandemic forced the entire world to change. We now live our family life differently, we socialize differently, we learn differently, and we work differently. In a positive way, we have all been allowed to appreciate and value human connection much more this past year as a result of isolation and less entertainment. We have been provided with the quiet spaces required to listen to our inner voices, and to explore the shifts in priorities that have come about from their echoes. As employees, we have been turning to the companies we work for seeking the same human compassion we have been witnessing in our communities and, as business owners, we have been searching for ways to bridge the gap between maximizing profits and meaningful engagement with the world around us.
In a great article by Peter Fisk, “Why do purpose-driven companies do better?”, 91% of consumers would switch brands if a different one was purpose-driven and had similar price and quality, and that purposeful companies actually outperform the market by 42%!
“Purpose is about losing yourself— in something bigger than you. It is about wanting to make a difference and do for others—to help, to give, to serve. It is the legacy you are going to leave behind.” - Ha Nguyen, Founding Partner at Spero Ventures
That being said: Is your company purpose-driven and consistently outperforming the market? It's important to note that a Vision or Mission Statement that hints at purpose and something that the company strives for is not enough. To truly put the concept to work, a transformative approach is needed to ensure that it lives and breathes in your company, day-in-day-out.
The "IKIGAI for Business"™ Model is the structured approach that can help achieve this.
First Off, What is Ikigai Again?
Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means a "reason for being". It can be equated to "direction in life" or "purpose", and is a powerful tool that allows people to align themselves with activities in life that simultaneously satisfy four essential pillars:
What you LOVE
What you are GOOD AT
What the world NEEDS
What you can be PAID FOR
When people are operating in their personal Ikigai, work no longer feels like work, and a pure sense of fulfillment is achieved since they are contributing to society in a meaningful manner, practicing what they love and are skilled at; a perfect marriage of passion, mission, profession and vocation.
If you are interested in learning more about the concept, and how it applies to personal development, check out an article I wrote entirely devoted to the Japanese-inspired concept, "5 Things You Need to Know About Ikigai", or the book "Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life" By Héctor García and Francesc Miralles.
The "IKIGAI for Business"™ Model
Shortly after founding IKIGAI Coaching Inc. in late 2020, and recognizing the Ikigai as a powerful self-development tool, I created the "IKIGAI for Business" Model" ™ as a framework to help organizations grow, by aligning all essential pillars of their company towards optimal conditions. It started as an initial checklist of "must-haves in any business", but rapidly grew to a proven process of systems that ensure that a business is authentically living its purpose while constantly performing at its very best. Each organization is different, born with its own DNA. When the work is done to achieve optimal, a business unlocks its true potential, or Business Ikigai.
The model, complemented by a series of self-discovery and assessment tools, guides businesses to objectively examine their strengths and weaknesses, and then defines specific actions that need to be taken by company leadership to achieve optimal conditions.
"IKIGAI for Business"™ Model is surprisingly simple and effective since it combines proven structural "must-haves" that any successful business needs, along with the human power of the Ikigai that allows owners and entrepreneurs to succeed, within their own cultural values and purpose.
Just as the Ikigai is completely personalized for self-development, the "IKIGAI for Business"™ Model provides this same personalized approach for companies looking to grow through structured change.
The Ikigai concept is adapted for business by adapting the core Ikigai elements in the following manner:
Companies that struggle with any of the 4 core IKIGAI for Business elements will experience symptoms outlined in any of the off-center segments of the model. For instance, a company struggling with "How you DELIVER THE PROMISE", but capable in the three other elements, will experience a flow of steady business for the time being, but will constantly be disappointing customers until they find an alternative competitor product or service to switch to.
The Core Elements of the "IKIGAI for Business"™ Model
How you FULFILL YOUR VISION
By far, the most important pillar of the "IKIGAI for Business"™ Model, the equivalent element to "What you LOVE" in the personal Ikigai. It is everything that is passion and culture related in the organization:
While many organizations may have these elements documented, it is still the minority that authentically live and breathe them. A simple test to perform here is the variability of the answers that employees provide when asked about overall company direction and communication of that direction to all staff. The transformative work performed here is not only ensuring that ownership and top leadership understand the vision, but establishing the proper communication channels and management accountabilities to guarantee that the passion and culture lifeblood flows at all levels of the company.
How you understand CUSTOMER NEEDS
Proper marketing is key for any business, especially keeping what your customers are actually expecting from you on a consistent basis!
Sales & Marketing
Product & Service Design
R & D
Do you have a way of assessing customer feedback in a structured manner? How is this feedback tied to your product/service design and engineering processes? Do all other areas of the business truly understand the weight that needs to be placed on the voices within the organization responsible for the stewardship of customer feedback and improvement suggestions? How the organization handles these questions, along with implementing the right processes and systems to ensure that products and services are constantly in line with customers' expectations is a fundamental aspect of the "IKIGAI for Business"™ Model.
How you GENERATE PROFIT
Practically speaking, without profit, there is no business!
This element of the model focuses on:
It is by far the most objective of all of the Core Elements based on its financial nature, however, powerful management tools are employed in this part of the model to ensure that the continuous improvement processes exist that constantly challenge the profitability of products and services within the organization to ensure that profit is maximized at all times!
How you DELIVER THE PROMISE
Working in parallel to the "What you are GOOD AT" element of the personal Ikigai, "How you DELIVER THE PROMISE" in the model focuses on all areas of the business responsible for consistent product and service delivery:
Skills / Training
Typically speaking, this is the area that most SMEs struggle the most with in their business maturity stage, and understandably; when small or medium sized businesses are first starting out, focus is logically placed on marketing, sales, customers, and cashflow in order to stay in business! However, as the company grows, this Core Element takes on more and more importance, since it actually starts to play a role in how capable an organization is able to scale and enter new markets, while maintaining its quality that put it on the map to begin with!
The One Thing Required for Implementing the "IKIGAI for Business"™ Model?
The "IKIGAI for Business"™ Model can be applied to any business, regardless of size, geography or years in operation. Due to its simplicity, the proven process is easy to understand and momentum is very quick due to its focus on business fundamentals and human dynamics.
There is only one key piece that must be in place before considering the model: top management must believe in incorporating purpose into their business, and must be willing to change the way they work as required!
Everything starts top-down. The individuals at the top, be it a singular owner, partners or a board, all need to believe in the value of integrating purpose in their business and that purposeful companies actually outperform the market by 42%. This point is actually so important that at IKIGAI Coaching, we do not even start an engagement with a client if we cannot get by this first step since failure would be guaranteed!
Saying that the purpose of a business is to make money is the same as saying that the purpose of life is breathing. Not completely inaccurate, but kind of missing the big picture!
You can't necessarily blame leadership in a company for being "stuck" in the same place and repeating the same business activities over and over again, expecting to grow.
After all, those activities are exactly what grew the business in the first place, what customers wanted at the time, and what made the most sense to the everyone sitting around the small boardroom table then.
Where leaders need to take accountability for is choosing to stay stuck when they know that they need to change in order to thrive, but are either too proud or too scared to make the change. As in all things in life, sometimes we need to get out of our own way, to get where we want to go.
Why is "IKIGAI For Business" Important in Today's World?
Aligning a business and its people with a shared purpose, allows for meaningful growth to occur.
Existing employees stay, devote themselves and become the biggest fans of the company, while new talent is constantly drawn to the organization by this powerful word-of-mouth. They work well together, since the business constantly invests in ensuring that things run smoothly within the organization, and workflow between teams is not only strongly encouraged, but constantly being improved as part of the expectations of management.
Since Customer Experience is also one of the core focuses of the "IKIGAI For Business"™ Model, customers become a key decision maker into the development of the business, from designing new products, deciding what product or service features can be eliminated, and participating in the overall strategic development of the company.
Purpose-driven companies attract the best minds, have the most passionate customers, achieve wild success and change the world. When purpose and passion are combined, the impact is powerful not only for individuals, but also on the public they serve to help create a brighter future for everyone. - Peter Fisk
Ikigai is not just for people. Your business can benefit from the same sense of purpose by ensuring that everything you do, starting with the products/services you sell, the customers and vendors you choose to work with, the people that you hire and develop, how you get your product into your customers' hands, right down to how you turn a profit, resonates one simple and powerful thing: your "reason for being".
What is the legacy that your business will leave behind?