Professional Development Blog
The Purpose Economy

The Purpose Economy

Aaron Hurst, Chief Executive Officer, Imperative & Author, The Purpose Economy

Duration: 23:47 mins

Discussion Questions:

What does the next economy look like and what can you do to help it along?
How can you build purpose at work?
Are you – or your agency – ready for the purpose economy?


“I recently spoke at a conference and was asked to speak about how to make government sexy again…and I can tell by looking at this room that we are already there.”

Aaron Hurst’s vibrant charisma lit up the Marriott ballroom with this opening remark earlier this morning as one of the keynote speakers at the Next Generation of Government Training Summit.

The author and Imperative CEO was invited to the summit to discuss his new book, “The Purpose Economy.” Hurst crowdsourced his own expert opinions and drew upon the advice and insights of more than 2,000 individuals to complete the book.

The book’s foundation rests upon the concept of evolution. Throughout time, humans have developed over thousands of years to become the sentient beings that we are today. “One thing that distinguishes us [from apes] is that we are impatient bastards,” Hurst remarked.

As he explained, humans could not wait for evolution’s natural processes to move us into the next era of existence. We “hacked” evolution, according to Hurst, by introducing mechanical innovation and digital technology to bring us into the information age of today.

In his 1977 dissertation, Hurst’s uncle coined the term “information economy.” Our current society is driven by this economy, where knowledge, discovery and information drive business and career decisions.

Hurst believes that the information economy will only last for another 10-20 years, however, even though it dominates society now. But what’s next for humankind, you may wonder? What economy is looming on the horizon?

To answer this question, Hurst discussed Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. According to this framework, humans fulfill basic survival needs first. Once these are met, we move on to higher needs, such as relationships and self-actualization (which is the apex of the pyramid).

Hurst explained that the entrepreneurs, business leaders and game changers of today’s society are much less worried about where they are going to sleep at night, and more with leading a life of meaning. As a whole, we are located higher on Maslow’s hierarchy and thus aiming to meet those higher needs.

Our higher placement leads directly into the next era of human existence. Hurst believes that the next economy is going to be about changing the way we work to be centered around having purpose.

“Work is broken,” Hurst stated. “We have stopped designing work for human beings.” Instead the focus is on being professional, becoming ideal human resources. We need to take back our humanity, however. We need to find our purpose.

But what exactly is purpose? And how do you know if you have it?

Hurst began with debunking three common myths about purpose:

1) Purpose and cause are the same thing. While many people believe this to be true, Hurst explained that he knows several people with innumerable causes, but no real purpose driving their work.

2) Purpose is a revelation. Many believe that a trip abroad or moment of divine intervention will illuminate a hidden person to their life. Purpose, however, is not a burst of heavenly rays.

3) Purpose is a luxury. In addition, it’s commonly believed that you need a certain level of affluent to have a purpose. The notion of needing to earn your purpose, however, is a negative impediment.

To follow this line of thought, Hurst explained that there are three ways that we tend to look at the meaning of our work:

1) Work is fundamentally a job.

2) Work is tied to our identity and ego.

3) Work is our calling, driven by a desire to add value to the world.

Two-thirds of people are not viewing their work as their calling, Hurst said. That means, a majority of our workforce does not see their job as a part of their central purpose. We move beyond this crippling notion, seek out our purpose and integrate it with our careers.

The first step to living your purpose, however, is defining it. According to Hurst, three pillars define purpose:

Fostering relationships.
Doing something greater than yourself.
Embracing personal growth and challenges.

These three principles need to guide your experiences and decisions, both inside and outside the workplace. This is easier said than done, however. As public sector officials and employees, how are we to make purpose a primary driver of our corporate culture?

Hurst offers these four strategies to build purpose at work:

1) Build employee self-awareness.

2) Craft work for each employee to boost their purpose.

3) Connect personal purpose to organizational purpose.

4) Celebrate and connect people around purpose.

“The purpose economy is the next economy in our evolution,” Hurst reinterated. That said, your agency needs to be prepared for the onset of the purpose economy.

Hurst’s advice and recommendations are a helpful framework for integrating purpose into your workplace – and your life. By placing purpose at the center of every decisions and interaction, you can transform your organization from a professionalism-driven entity to a purpose-driven machine.

To close the session, Hurst posed this rhetorical question to the audience: “Do we want to pull out our umbrella when we see this coming, or pull out our surfboard and ride this new wave?”

Are you – or your agency – ready for the purpose economy?