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The Connected Company by Thomas Vander Wal, Dave Gray

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Chapter 9. Connected companies have a purpose

Maximizing shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world.

Jack GE Welch

Learning happens in the context of a goal, an attempt to do something or to make something happen. Without a purpose to drive learning, it is haphazard—not much more useful than blind flailing about. The purpose of a company is to do something for customers while making a profit.

Purpose Accelerates and Focuses Learning

Sometimes you learn things by accident. For example, when a child puts her hand on a hot stove, she learns not to touch it. You can learn more by exposing yourself to a lot of different environments and by trying a lot of things. And certainly this kind of serendipitous learning can be very valuable. But while accidents can create a lot of opportunities, you will learn more, and have more happy accidents, if you are pursuing a goal.

Think about learning to swim. If you get into the water without a goal, you may enjoy yourself, but you won’t learn much. Most learning happens by trial and error: you try something, and then based on your success or failure, you learn and improve over time. Purpose gives learning energy and direction, and therefore accelerates and focuses it.

If your goal is to learn to swim, you will know you’re making progress by comparing the current state to your goal. If you sink, you’re not making progress. If you are able to float, you are making a step in the right direction. And if you are able to propel yourself in a given direction, ...

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