2040’s Ideas and Innovations Newsletter, Issue 71: What Is Your North Star?

What Is Your North Star?

Do you know your organization’s North Star? Or maybe a better question is whether your organization even has a North Star. Not to get all astronomical on you, but Dr. E.C. Krupp, Director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles and a world-renowned expert in ancient astronomy explains, “The north pole of the sky and whatever stars were close to that point told the ancients there was foundation and structure in their lives. It was an anchor that held the world in place, the stable, motionless hub of the night’s orderly parade of stars. For some, that spot symbolized stability, order, and transcendental celestial power. The motionless stability of the north celestial pole is also expressed in the names and myths attached to the star now seen closest to the sky’s pole. Although we usually call it the North Star, it is also known as Polaris, Latin for “of the pole.”

A North Star Narrative

So, metaphorically, a North Star is what inspires and influences us. It’s not goals. It’s not a mission statement. It’s the fundamental ethos that your organization operates on. To be more precise, it is the reason you are in business. It is your shared purpose reflected and embraced by everyone in your organization. And your true sense of direction.

So, what happens when market conditions throw you a curve or your organization faces a disruption? Do you abandon your North Star? Do you bend its purpose to adapt to the current situation? Which begs the question: Is a North Star immutable? Or is it malleable? Purpose would seem to transcend any blip in market disruption or sea change. And in today’s customer-demand-driven, woke environment, you can’t afford to tap dance around your true purpose, your North Star. If you do, you risk losing authenticity and credibility with your workforce, customers, and all your stakeholders.

If we pause for a moment without diving into divisive current events, we may find examples of how individuals are setting their North Stars, holding firm to their ethics, beliefs and values, despite conditions in the current moment in time. Whether a leader in the public eye, or an everyday hero living next door hold firm to their North Star, we admire them for their commitment, dedication, and courage to stand firm against the pressure to cave to the public discourse and the way the wind is blowing. Those who decide to follow the wind eventually find themselves in hot water justifying past words and actions and confusing others with contradictions and lack of consistency. We may not always agree with those who take a stand, but we do respect them, and hold them as honorable, courageous, committed, and strong. They are often role models for others and us. Similarly, organizations that hold onto their North Star benefit societally and across their markets, admired by their stakeholders, including their workforce.

We have often written about the importance of consistency and context, dedication to purpose, staying the course, even if the course comes with bumps and unexpected consequences. An organization’s North Star benefits stakeholders by declaring what it stands for, how it operates and who it really is. As many seek to define a brand, improve brand awareness, or increase a brand’s popularity, they should consider the importance of purpose, maintaining consistency of purpose and commitment to what they believe in. A brand is so much more than logos, colors and fonts.

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Kevin Novak

4X webby winner, CEO and Chief Strategy Officer @2040 Digital (www.2040digital.com), IADAS Member, Speaker, Author, Science Nut