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« You don't have to pander | Main | How big is critical mass? »

Your manifesto, your culture

It's so easy to string together a bunch of platitudes and call them a mission statement. But what happens if you actually have a specific mission, a culture in mind, a manifesto for your actions?

The essential choice is this: you have to describe (and live) the difficult choices. You have to figure out who you will disappoint or offend. Most of all, you have to be clear about what's important and what you won't or can't do.

Here's one that was published this week, by my friends at Acumen:

Acumen: It starts by standing with the poor, listening to voices unheard, and recognizing potential where others see despair.

It demands investing as a means, not an end, daring to go where markets have failed and aid has fallen short. It makes capital work for us, not control us.

It thrives on moral imagination: the humility to see the world as it is, and the audacity to imagine the world as it could be. It’s having the ambition to learn at the edge, the wisdom to admit failure, and the courage to start again.

It requires patience and kindness, resilience and grit: a hard-edged hope. It’s leadership that rejects complacency, breaks through bureaucracy, and challenges corruption. Doing what’s right, not what’s easy.

Acumen: it’s the radical idea of creating hope in a cynical world. Changing the way the world tackles poverty and building a world based on dignity.

Starts, demands, thrives and requires. Four words that are not in the vocabulary of most organizations.

Starts, as in, "here's where we are, where few others are." Most politicians and corporate entities can't imagine standing with the poor. Apart from them, sure. But with them?

Demands? Demands mean making hard choices about who your competition will be and what standards you're willing to set and be held to.

Thrives, because your organization is only worth doing if it gets to the point where it will thrive, where you will be making a difference, not merely struggling or posturing.

And requires, because none of this comes easy.

David highlights a very different (but strikingly similar) document from HubSpot. The same dynamic is at work: no platitudes, merely a difficult to follow (but worth it) compass for how to move forward.

Both require the hubris of caring, of thinking big and being willing to fail if that's what it takes to attempt the right thing.

It's easy to write something like this (hey, even the TSA has one) but it's incredibly difficult to live one, because it requires difficult choices and the willingness to own the outcome of your actions. If you're going to permit loopholes, wiggle room and deniability, don't even bother.

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