Designing a Purposeful Business

Chapter 3: Download the Bob’s Burgers workshop and Cover Story exercise here
Designing a Purposeful Business
Publ. date 7 Dec 2018
Many firms fail to successfully implement their sustainability strategies, not because they lack the desire, the willingness or even the belief in the impact of sustainability on their businesses, but because they fail to identify proper objectives for their efforts. Setting a clear and meaningful purpose can help an organization to coalesce various efforts and goodwill and gives a shared sense of direction. The Bob’s Burgers workshop and Cover Story exercise can help to define a sustainability-based purpose.

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Bob’s Burgers Workshop instructions
Time required: 3 to 3½ hours

Step 1: The McDonald’s Business Canvas
The workshop starts off by discussing an abridged version of the McDonald’s business model visualized through the popular Business Model Canvas, as developed by Swiss business model guru Alexander Osterwalder and management information systems professor Yves Pigneur. With the company’s impressive footprint globally, most if not all workshop participants will have abundant knowledge of the McDonald’s experience, thereby guaranteeing lively exchanges.

Step 2: Developing your own fast-food restaurant
After introducing the McDonald’s case in the plenary kick-off, participants are divided into teams of 4 to 6 individuals with an assignment to re-design the business. More specifically, they are asked to come up with an inspiring fast-food store concept in a city nearby, that maximizes its impact on society while running beyond break-even. The (non-exhaustive) list of ideas introduced by participants can become quite broad ranging from renewable energy, healthy menus and sustainable beef to a hangout for local youth or a training institute for restaurant employees.

Step 3: Presentation and discussion
The teams present their ideas to each other, and explain specifically:

  • What is the positive societal impact that their restaurants are achieving, and how?
  • What is the ‘special sauce’ in the restaurant’s business model, and in which part of the Business Model Canvas are they located?

Finally, back as one group, discuss the most significant and remarkable ideas that emerged in the team presentations, and how these concepts or ideas could be applied to your current business.

Cover Story exercise instructions
Time required: 1 to 1½ hours

The Cover Story is a visioning tool designed to help firms generate a company purpose. In essence, the Cover Story approach entails the development of a future cover page. This is usually conducted in a workshop format with a maximum of 20 participants with as many diverse backgrounds and roles as possible. To apply the tool, make sure to start by dividing the workshop participants into groups of three to four individuals.

Step 1: Designing the 2024 cover
Ask the groups to write an article for the cover of Forbes Magazine five years from now, featuring the company, its purpose statement and its outstanding achievements in society, starting with the headline of the article. The obligatory components of the frontpage, next to the central headline, are a suitable picture and a (short) story of what contributed to the company’s success. Most importantly, the story needs to contain the description of the secret ingredient that made the company’s sustainability program into a gigantic success.

Step 2: Presentation & developing a single headline
Ask some of the groups to quickly present their solutions and start working on a plenary version of the headline.

Step 3: From planning to action: 100-day action plan
After completion of the plenary version, challenge the audience to turn this attractive foresight into reality by generating a 100-day action plan.

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