Post written by Francisco Palao, founder of Purpose Alliance.
At the end of 2021, I started to write the book Positive Impact, with the aim of inspiring entrepreneurs and organizations to create a better world while improving their businesses and projects. Now, I would like to tell you why I decided to write this book, and I think there is no better way to do it than by sharing the foreword of the book, which I wrote myself when I finish the writing process. I hope you like it, but above all, I hope that after reading the foreword you feel inspired to take a step further… and to enter the Age of Positive Impact!
Foreword of the Positive Impact book
Humans are a fascinating species.
Always pursuing new achievements.
Evolving . . .
According to the latest data, Homo sapiens appeared on Earth about 300,000 years ago. We were nomads at first, wandering from here to there as we hunted, fished, and gathered everything we needed to survive. We improved our mastery of hunting and fishing techniques and were consequently able to survive for thousands and thousands of years throughout what we call the Paleolithic Age.
But it was not enough. About 10,000 years ago, our eagerness to innovate and improve led us to become farmers and raise livestock. With the discovery of new skills and techniques, we were able to settle down and produce our own food and ensure our sustenance, laying down the foundations of our current civilization. Thus began a period we know as the Neolithic Age.
That was not the end of it. Improving our quality of life and safety as a species made us refuse to conform. Soon we acquired new knowledge about working with metals like copper, bronze, and iron, which allowed us to leap forward as a civilization. We developed new tools and continued to learn about the universe, about life, and about ourselves.
In recent centuries, evolution has been spectacular. Discoveries and advances in medicine have enabled us to double our average life expectancy from approximately thirty-five years in the Middle Ages to over seventy years today. We discovered that the Earth is round and that we live on a planet within a solar system in a galaxy we named the Milky Way. We invented the combustion engine, which led to the Industrial Revolution and radically changed the way we travel and move goods from one place to another. We discovered electricity and learned to control it to produce energy, light, and heat and provide our homes with endless possibilities. We created systems for exchanging value, inventing the concept of money and creating a space for economies, markets, and businesses and a long “et cetera” that could fill the entire book. Humans, with our continuous purpose of improving our own existence, have the amazing ability to imagine something that does not yet exist and make it happen.
Information and communication technologies, especially the Internet, have now provided us with new ways of living and interacting with the world. They have also brought about a new paradigm in the business world with the emergence of startups and the era of digital innovation. During the last few years, we have seen a new generation of innovative companies with a strong tech component emerge, completely disrupting the status quo and leading to the disappearance of entire industries and large organizations.
This new environment has given rise to new techniques for business management and the development of innovative products and services. Until recently, when a company wanted to develop a new product, they drew up a detailed plan and put it to work. Known as the waterfall model, this works when we know the problem we want to solve and are clear about the right solution. But, in a changing context full of uncertainty, fixed plans no longer make sense. Customers’ needs and solutions that the market demands are constantly changing, requiring us to implement techniques that allow for continuous adjustments.
This need for new approaches to product and service development led to the birth of “agile” techniques supported by the Agility Manifesto and solidified by frameworks such as Scrum. Nevertheless, focusing exclusively on agile product development turned out not to be enough. In constantly changing, highly uncertain environments, it seemed more logical to first discover who the customers really are and who they are not—that is, to focus on the problem rather than on developing the solution. An initial approach to this came from Steve Blank, who created a new methodology called Customer Development, which makes it possible to develop the customer before the product and create a solution to a real market problem.
A few years later, Eric Ries strengthened the use of agile principles and customer development by creating Lean Startup, one of the most widespread methodologies in the world of entrepreneurship and innovation, which teaches us to implement a continuous cycle, gathering customer input to improve our product using three simple but powerful steps: build, measure, and learn.
Business models were forced to adapt to this new situation. To facilitate that adaptation, Alex Osterwalder developed the Business Model Canvas, a simple tool that lets us easily define and communicate business models. Subsequently, many new canvases were designed for different tasks using the same approach. Salim Ismail then described the exponential organizations concept, a new phenomenon centered on organizations with a business model that lets them grow exponentially by connecting with abundance and managing it.
I feel profound admiration for humanity and for those who have brought us here. I feel a special gratitude toward the entrepreneurs and innovators who did not limit themselves to developing a project but dedicated much of their lives and energy to sharing their knowledge so that others could leverage it and avoid the mistakes they had made. Some of them, like those I have mentioned—Steve Blank, Eric Ries, Alex Osterwalder, and Salim Ismail—shared a series of techniques based on their experience and knowledge so that we could take our ventures to the next level. However, as throughout human history, new scenarios force us to develop new techniques and new ways of interacting with the world. This book and the framework I describe, Purpose Launchpad, are part of this evolution and the beginning of a new Age of Positive Impact.
I am absolutely convinced that the time has come to start acting as a species and not as individuals, taking our purpose beyond improving our own existence and focusing on improving the world we live in. Today, we face significant economic, social, and environmental challenges that are generating unprecedented global awareness. More than ever before in our history, we need to respond to global problems. It is imperative that we act.
It is no longer enough to innovate and generate new products and services that create value for our customers; it is now necessary to create innovations that improve the world. It is no longer enough to be sustainable; it is now necessary to regenerate the resources we have consumed and the assets we have eliminated.
We are moving from the innovation and sustainability era to the Age of Positive Impact.
In March 2022, a group of more than 100 impact-oriented innovators, entrepreneurs, activists, and investors from across the globe gathered to create the Purpose Manifesto (which you will find at the end of the book), sending a crucial message out to the world: It is no longer enough to do things the right way (as the Agile Manifesto announced to us all 20 years ago); it is also necessary to do the right things. The good news is that we can do this. We can do the right things correctly, generating value for our projects and for the world.
Innovation techniques like agile, Customer Development, Lean Startup, or exponential organizations (among many others) continue to be completely valid; just as in many environments, waterfall models are still the right choice. However, we needed to integrate all these innovation techniques and create something that went a step further. Purpose Launchpad was born from that need—a new, completely open framework that combines innovation methodologies, integrating and sorting them so that entrepreneurs and organizations can create a positive impact on the world and on their own projects.
Purpose Launchpad’s main contributions, which I will describe in detail in the book, are as follows:
- Integrating innovation methodologies to activate our purpose and turn it into positive impact.
The global challenges facing humanity, many of which we have caused ourselves, demand immediate action. Many of these challenges represent enormous business opportunities that must be implemented using innovation techniques to minimize risk. However, it is not enough to do things the right way; we must also do the right things. It is time to move from the innovation era to the impact era. Purpose Launchpad brings us the best of existing innovation techniques, integrating and sorting them to activate our purpose and turn it into positive impact on the world and on our projects.
- An approach based on eight axes: Purpose, People, Customers, Sustainability, Abundance, Processes, Product, and Metrics.
Every innovative project is a set of hypotheses that must be evaluated. These hypotheses refer not only to the customer and the product, as many of the existing innovation methods indicate, but also to every aspect of the endeavor. Purpose Launchpad introduces eight axes addressed in an agile manner and in parallel to develop our projects comprehensively. It also integrates the various innovation techniques and methodologies into each axis, including (among others) Customer Development for the Customer axis, Lean Startup for the Product and Customer axes, exponential organizations for the Abundance axis, and so on. In addition, any other tool or methodology linked to innovation or impact can be incorporated into Purpose Launchpad’s open, common framework.
- Three action modes for each project’s three phases: Exploration, Evaluation, and Impact.
In an innovative initiative’s early stages of development, we cannot know what we do not know, so, rather than focusing on evaluating hypotheses, we’ll have to discover new ones. And, when we find a market opportunity, it must be validated with the first customers (and with actual sales) before the product is developed and sent to the mass market. Purpose Launchpad helps us adapt how we act and think in each of the three basic phases: Exploration, Evaluation, and Impact.
- A regenerative growth model.
Exponential growth is not sustainable, and our planet is warning us of this. Similarly, no industry can support continued exponential growth, for the very size of the market has a limit. It is possible, however, to have unlimited growth by generating a massive positive impact around a purpose. Purpose Launchpad shows us how pioneering organizations are moving from single-industry models to purpose-based ecosystems. This generates a wealth of opportunities that enable unlimited growth sustainably while creating a positive impact.
- A framework for both startups and established organizations.
Established organizations and businesses are focused on operating to maximize their bottom line. Startups, on the other hand, are focused on exploring new markets and business models. Purpose Launchpad makes it easy for both to interact within a common framework, leveraging the best of each world and maximizing their synergies.
- A new mindset.
The key to success does not lie exclusively in using the latest technology or even in implementing the right innovation methodologies. The key to launching successful initiatives and evolving organizations towards new models is a new mindset. Purpose Launchpad incorporates a series of principles and elements specially designed to help people evolve the way they think and see the world while they implement it. It is not merely a new framework but a new mindset as well.
As a species, humans are guided by their curiosity. We are explorers searching for new knowledge and new techniques to improve our lives and the world around us. We cannot remain anchored in the techniques and tools of the past but must integrate them and take them a step further, developing new models that are more suitable for the environment we inhabit. Thus, I invite you to do just that: go one step further.
Welcome to the Age of Positive Impact!
Granada, June 24, 2022
You can learn more about the Impacto Positivo book and get your copy at this link.