The Purpose Economy

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Expanded and updated – How your desire for impact, personal growth, and community is changing the world.

In the Purpose Economy Aaron Hust explains why we try to find meaning and purpose within ourselves to be able to deal with the increasing amount of information and economic instability. The changes that are taking place are based on the need to grow personally, establish meaningful relationships and do what is in service of something greater than oneself.


Purpose economy

The new economy is naturally building on previous economies. First there was the Agrarian economy. People learned to master agriculture and this led to settling down instead of wandering around in search for food. The development of the steam machine meant the beginning of the Industrial revolution. Mass production provided many people with a higher quality of life. With the development of personal computers and the internet the Information economy was entered. Access to information and being able to measure and analyze big data brought many new insights. The now evolving Purpose economy focuses on finding meaning and connection.

“Each new, dominant economy grows out of the foundation of the prior dominant economy, though the new one doesn’t entirely displace its predecessor. Rather it complements and builds from it, tackling problems and serving human needs in new and distinctive ways.”


A human-centered revolution

The focus on output and efficiency during the Industrial economy came at the cost of the natural world. The technology used in the Information economy has led to social comparison and isolation. In the Purpose economy the existing foundation is used to reconnect to each other and the planet by using the technology that made us disconnect in the first place.

“In an effort to be more efficient and to optimize for scale, companies sacrificed the humanity behind their products and services.”


New career definition

Staying with only one organization is quite uncommon for those who enter the business world currently. For Millennials careers are seen like step stones instead of climbing up the corporate ladder within one singe lifetime employer. The job security previous generations expected from an employer are illusionary. Many learned this the hard way during the great recession when they were let go. They now face a reality to need to work even after retirement. This has led to a shift from getting rewarded for work when arriving at retirement or with big paychecks towards enjoying the journey.

“If you are looking at working 55 to 60 years of your life, you’re going to want that time to be enjoyable and meaningful.”


New work

“The drive to be more purposeful explains much of the momentum behind the massive exodus from mainstream corporate life. As Generation X and Millennials have entered the workforce, more professionals have created alternative ways to do work that is meaningful.”

Working as a freelancer on side projects, being self-employed and founding or joining a start-up are only a few examples of alternative ways of new careers. It provides many people who are specialists in their craft with a security to be responsible for their own success. In an attempt to take back control meaning and purpose are found by looking within instead of getting stability from an employer. Identities are constructed around purpose to make sense of the rapidly evolving complexity in the world and our equally fluctuating role in it. Following what we love to do and our natural interest leads to developing capabilities in these areas.

“Passion is a crucial element of purpose.”


Personal growth

We have lost trust in so called experts, people who are supposed to know their topic and what they are doing. Based on our beliefs and experiences we gain personal motivation to become an expert in a certain topic. Self-actualization plays an important part in this development. Moving up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs we want to realize our potential. We want to do what we love while helping others. This will lead us ultimately to the last stage of self-transcendence. However, purpose is about finding an approach to work and serving others, not a destination.

“What we do is not nearly as important as how we do it and what attitude we bring to the work.”



“During the week, most of us spend at least 50 percent of our waking time at work. If we aren’t getting our need of purpose met here, we are unlikely, to have satisfying levels of purpose in our overall lives. Purpose enables us to thrive; we need it in the activity we spend most of our waking hours doing: working.”

Humans are social beings and we look for meaningful relationships and community. We find it mostly in the place we spent the most time: our workplace. Organizations create purpose by providing value for real needs and help to create community by enabling personal growth.

“They [organizations] reinforce our sense of value, require us to engage, and ultimately help us grow.”



“The most powerful source of purpose comes from this concept; purpose comes when we know we have done something that we believe matters to others, to society, and to ourselves. From the small and mundane daily choices we make to systematic and historic impact, we strive to contribute to the well-being of the world around us.”

We as individuals, may it be on our own or collaboratively in organizations, work on making an impact in society. The greatest joy comes from providing our own capabilities to others in order to help them to reach their goals. In other words we are most fulfilled if we work on something greater than ourselves. However, in a transparent world we are also held accountable for the effect of our actions. In the future it becomes increasingly difficult for an organization to justify a pure bottom-line strategy.

“The Purpose Economy is about more than just profits; it’s about creating meaningful impact in service of people and the planet. The great business challenge now is not just how to build a successful organization, but how to build more human-centered markets.”



In a book that highlights doing things differently the creation of it was not done in the standard way. Aaron Hust has not expressed his solely personal experiences, nor has he collected data over the years to present a big picture. Although both aspects appear, since in ten years with his pro bono organization Taproot he had collected applications of why people want to work, he had shared his ideas early to get feedback. He had send out the manuscript of the book to thought leaders around the world and in that way realized tapping into the collective potential. All these people shared their stories and what they observe. In that way the Purpose Economy is really summarizing the current development in the world which is seen through diverse eyes. As an appendix there are the top 100 pioneers in the purpose economy highlighted from Asia, Europe, and the United States.


Aaron Hust and his team at Imperative are doing research related to purpose. They are working on providing purpose for individuals and implementing it in organizations as well. Their work is so imperative!


What impact do you want to achieve and who do you want to help?


The Purpose Economy explains  and describes perfectly what has driven me personally to create HumanBusiness. From the perspective of a member of the Generation Y this book was long overdue to give many of us orientation and to explain other generations through what lens we see the world. The book is useful for everybody who is participating in the business world.  Amazon DE  Amazon UK



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About Businesshumanizer

My name is Jens and I write about organizational evolution to inspire a way of organizing work that is human-centric. Find me at

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