Discovering Higher Purpose: Anjan Thakor

  • Season 1, Bonus Episode 3
  • December 14, 2021
  • 22 minute listen

Discovering Higher Purpose: Anjan Thakor

“Higher purpose acts as the arbiter of every business decision the firm makes. It's a lens through which you see all your business decisions.”


Leaders of firms are often very good at explaining their company’s vision and mission, but less clear on why their firm exists in the first place. We explore the economics of higher purpose in firms. What does the research say? What does it mean? And why does it matter?

Episode Notes

During On Principle’s regular season, we tell the stories of business leaders navigating tough calls and pivotal moments. Between seasons, we share bonus episodes that delve deeper into earlier interviews, elaborating on research, scholarship and experience about values-based, data-driven decision-making.

In our first-season On Principle episode with Dave Ciesinksi, CEO of Lancaster Colony food brands, we also spoke to Anjan Thakor, Olin’s John E. Simon Professor of Finance. He had consulted with Lancaster Colony as its leaders sought to drive deeper employee engagement—and better results. Thakor, along with collaborating researcher Robert Quinn from the University of Michigan, has done pioneering research into the economic benefits of higher purpose. Why does the firm exist?

As the pair found, higher purpose must be discovered, not invented. And once it’s discovered and articulated, it drives the firm’s decisions. It’s not about charity or doing good for the sake of doing good, but about understanding why the organization exists and having a north star to drive decisions.

In our third bonus episode of On Principle, Anjan helps us understand what drove his research into higher purpose in the first place, what it means for leaders, and the benefits to firm employees and the firm’s bottom line.

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This podcast is a production of Washington University in St. Louis’ Olin Business School. Contributors include:

  • Katie Wools, Cathy Myrick and Judy Milanovits, creative assistance
  • Jill Young Miller, fact checking and creative assistance
  • Hayden Molinarolo, original music and sound design
  • Mike Martin Media, editing
  • Sophia Passantino, social media
  • Lexie O'Brien and Erik Buschardt, website support
  • Mark P. Taylor, strategic support
  • Paula Crews, creative vision and strategic support

Special thanks to Ray Irving and his team at WashU Olin’s Center for Digital Education, including our audio engineer, Austin Alred.

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