Higher Purpose Research and Practice

Learn about our higher purpose research and practice initiatives below.

The Power of Purpose | Olin’s Higher Purpose Conference

On November 8, 2019, WFA-CFAR cohosted a Higher Purpose Conference with the Bauer Leadership Center and Barry Wehmiller.

This invitation-only conference considered the power of organizational purpose and how it relates to personal and organizational outcomes. Researchers who have investigated the topic and practitioners who have undertaken the journey provided insights and perspectives in a series of expert panels on different aspects of higher purpose. Designed for senior leaders who wanted to learn more about higher purpose and how it could benefit their organizations, the conference invited leaders to participate in discussions, exchange ideas and contribute to the insights that emerged from the day.

Everybody Matters Podcast: Higher Purpose Series

Pt.1 with Bob Quinn and Anjan Thakor, Ep. 87

In May 2020, Robert E. Quinn, co-founder and core faculty, Center for Positive Organizations, and the Margaret Elliot Tracy Collegiate Emeritus Professor in Business Organization at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and Anjan Thakor, the John E. Simon Professor of Finance at WashU Olin Business School were guests on the Barry Wehmiller’s Everybody Matters Podcast: Higher Purpose Series. The two professors have both written successful papers and articles on higher purpose, including “Creating a Purpose-Driven Organization,” which was featured in the Harvard Business Review. In April 2020, professors Stuart Bunderson, the George and Carol Bauer Professor of Organizational Ethics and Governance and Anjan Thakor launched a survey on personal and organizational higher purpose. Over 1,000 people in the United States were surveyed. The findings from this survey were quite remarkable, and Bunderson and Thakor cowrote “Personal and Organizational Higher Purpose: Corporate Governance and Shareholder Value: Survey Results,” which was published in July 2020 and featured on SSRN’s top ten list.

Business Research Series Featuring Anjan Thakor

Watch Anjan Thakor from the March 2021 Business Research Series.

In March 2021, Anjan Thakor, the John E. Simon Professor of Finance at WashU Olin Business School, noted that 88% of employees at US companies feel that the company they work for didn’t care about them. Thakor was the featured speaker for the Olin Business Research Series event “How Can You Create a Purpose-Driven Organization?” (PDF) The solution lies in organizations’ embracing an authentic higher purpose, he said, with that purpose as the “arbiter of all decisions.” Thakor’s research shows employees of organizations with higher purpose statements are happier and prouder of their organizations than employees at workplaces without such a statement. The effects were stronger when the purpose statement was written—and tied to society, employees and customers rather than shareholders. How to bring this theory to practice? Thakor offered eight guidelines drawn from research and interviews with leaders of higher purpose organizations. Thakor, along with University of Michigan colleague Robert Quinn, collaborated on the research, which culminated in a 2019 book titled The Economics of Higher Purpose: Eight Counterintuitive Steps for Creating a Purpose-Driven Organization. The pair also collaborated on a 2018 cover story on the topic for the Harvard Business Review.

WFA-CFAR continues the conversation on higher purpose with ongoing research and conferences.