There are as many ways to build a business as there are people who build them. Some are motivated solely by profit, some by challenge, some by accident, and some by philanthropy, or purpose. What does it mean to build with purpose? Join Amazon Care Head of UX Design and Research Dane Howard to learn about the concepts and actions necessary for building with purpose.

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On slaying “career dragons”

Some of us are fortunate in our careers to look back and realize that we got what we needed or wanted, even though we may not have known at the time what we were getting. 

“What do I want to accomplish, what do I want to do, who do I want to work for? I certainly had that ambition in my career. And let’s just say that we might have one or several dragons that we might want to slay in our career. And for me, I didn’t have the ability to name my dragon. But I realized when I had slain it.

For me, I found myself at a particular fortune 100 company in commerce. And I realized that I was about halfway through my career, and I somehow wanted to give back and I didn’t know how so I started to find different reasons to give back. 

That was a huge lift off of my chest, off my mind, to realize that a lot of my efforts or my ambitions, a lot of my coaching, a lot of the things that I would put into management would be given to the next generation of designers or the next generation of thinkers. I wanted some return on investment, and certainly a return on involvement of the efforts that I put into it.”

On why building with purpose matters today

Dane likes to think about purpose as a continuum or spectrum. There isn’t just one point or one time or one objective. There are many and they’re interrelated.

“Within the radius of that word, you have what you could call intentionality. And just because purpose is out in front of you, you have to make it your own. And when you make it your own, you have this degree of intentionality. 

And then on the other end of the spectrum is the amount of change or meaningful change and impact that you want to have. And I think this is an important calibration moment, because purpose is a large container for how we actually decide to extract meaning from our work. 

On the challenges we face in building with purpose

Just because we articulate a purpose doesn’t mean that other key people will see the intrinsic value or your motivating factors. Sometimes there are other points to communicate.

‘So as we try to build products that have a double bottom-line impact, some of the challenges are that when you lead with purpose…you start to look at purpose as a separate, double bottom-line, it starts to be met with questions. 

And when I’ve actually interviewed a lot of the different leaders that have led different parts of these organizations, they guide me and instruct me to say if you can, first align it with one of the metrics that you already measure. 

For example, is there a way to infuse purpose that would relate to NPS? Or engagement? And when you have something that you’re already measuring in the business, it’s better set up for measurement as an input into how that relates to reputation, or how that relates to some type of existing business metric that you’re already measuring.”

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