Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles 00:00:06,292 --> 00:00:09,690 [APPLAUSE] ROBERT QUINN: A couple of weeks ago I was in Barcelona. And we were just finishing a week in training executives in leadership. And I was having dinner with a man who was in charge of the week. He's an interesting character. He's a psychiatrist who is deeply wedded to science. He also has a PhD in theology. He spends about half of his time with professionals trying to make them more effective leaders. He spends the other half of his time in villages and towns helping very ordinary people make better sense of their lives. I was listening to him tell some of his stories, and I said, Alberto, what is your life purpose? Without a moment's hesitation, he said the sanctification of work. I said, what does that mean? He said, making work sacred. What does that mean? And he paused for a second. And he said, when you help people make their work sacred, they come alive in every area of their life. Whoa. That was pretty interesting. 00:01:34,020 --> 00:01:38,899 It's a very striking thing to see a man of such commitment to science and to theology and to service come to a conclusion like that. 00:01:50,450 --> 00:01:56,890 About 2006, I left the university for three years, and I went and ran an organization. At the university, we have a set of [INAUDIBLE] organizations, which is a new field of study where we asked what is an individual like at their best? What is a group like at their best? What is an organization like at their best? Not what they're like normally, but in the way out far side of that normal curve [INAUDIBLE].. And that creates an entirely different way to see the world. I left with the commitment that I was going to build an organization based on the principles of science that we knew from this new field. Those three years were one of the most meaningful periods of my life. When I got back, my friend came to see me. He's a world-class economist. And he began to question me. I thought it would go for two or three minutes. It went on for two hours. He wanted to know everything. Then he went away for a few minutes and he came back. And he said, what you just told me defies economics. It turns economics upside down. We have to write a paper. So I said, OK. I'm open to that. We started working on a paper. The paper's all in Greek. It's all mathematical. It's a simulation of an organization. Now, along the way, he decided to educate me. And he said, I'm going to explain to you why this turns economics upside down. It has to do with the principal-agent problem. He said at the heart of microeconomics is the principal-agent problem. So I turned to him, an employee, and I said, I'm going to give you $100. You work for me for 10 hours. We shake hands. We have a contract. As long as I'm there to watch him, he keeps the contract. The moment I turn my back on him, he underperforms the contract. And that's the very heart of microeconomics-- principal-agent problem. Well, we built the simulation. We created a normal organization. And then we introduced something new. The new variable was higher purpose. The moment we introduced higher purpose into the model, the entire organization transformed. The employee, or the agent, became a principal, became an owner, became intrinsically motivated. My friend was really excited. He said, this is incredible. We've got to go interview CEOs of high-purpose companies. Now, to me, it seemed to sort of make sense that that would happen. But when we went out and did the interviews, then I got surprised. As we interviewed these CEOs, the shocking discovery to me was that most of them, the majority of them, when they became CEO, they did not believe in purpose, people, or culture. 00:05:18,730 --> 00:05:22,974 They had come up through economic, managerial training. And they didn't believe in those things. Every one of them got there through some kind of personal crisis. 00:05:32,140 --> 00:05:34,700 They had to rediscover the world, and they had to bring purpose into their mental set. When they did that, and they brought higher purpose to the people in the organization, things changed, just like our simulation. And we learned a great deal from those folks. 00:05:57,090 --> 00:06:00,000 And I wanted to share with you what science says about that notion of having a purpose-driven life. I have a colleague over the public health school who just published a book last year. And in it there's a literature review on the health effects of having a purpose-driven life. The list is interesting. This is what it says. If you have a purpose-driven life, it adds years to your life. You live longer. It reduces the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke. It cuts the risk of Alzheimer's. It helps you relax during the day and sleep better at night. It doubles the chance of staying drug-free or alcohol-free after treatment. Increases your good cholesterol. Gives you better sex. Gives you more friends. Gives you more meaning, engagement, life satisfaction, and happiness. 00:07:08,320 --> 00:07:14,360 Now, when I look at that list of findings, the only thing that I'm left to conclude is you and I are designed to be purpose-seeking mechanisms. 00:07:25,720 --> 00:07:31,160 When we're not, when we live in our comfort zone, we live a life of survival. We know statistically, 70% of the global workforce is disengaged at work. That's an astounding number. 51% of the management workforce is disengaged at work. That's the management workforce. 00:07:58,490 --> 00:08:01,982 What does that say about our organizations? You know, when we talk about living a life of quiet desperation, there are legions of people out there surviving. 00:08:11,450 --> 00:08:14,909 When you clarify your highest purpose, you are basically discovering what your contribution is to this planet. Given your gifts, your skills, your abilities, what is your contribution? What's your life mission? Why are you on the planet? When you answer that question, everything changes. The research says when you give up self-interested goals, where most of us are most of the time, and you take on contributive goals, you function differently. The biology changes. The thought process changes. Learning accelerates. You grow more. 00:08:57,230 --> 00:08:59,870 Whenever we look at high-performing people over long term, we find this notion of higher purpose. I was invited with some colleagues to go to Ohio and study public schoolteachers. Now, in a business school, you could be shot for that. Why would I go study public schoolteachers? Because I had access to the top 1% of the teachers in Ohio. These are the teachers that walk on water. Students go in their class in September, they come out in June way out here. Now, two to three times as much learning in their classroom, objectively measured. Now, you can't work twice as hard as a normal teacher, because they work hard. So what are these people doing? The reason I went to study them is I knew before I ever went down there that they weren't schoolteachers. And I just told you they were schoolteachers. They work in schools. If they're not schoolteachers, what are they? Let me get a response from you. What would you think about if you think about that puzzle. What would you know about these people before you ever went? AUDIENCE: They're purpose-driven. ROBERT QUINN: They're purpose-driven, that's for sure. 00:10:25,280 --> 00:10:29,900 These people are transformational leaders. They would die if you call them that. They would say, I'm a schoolteacher. But they are transforming the culture of their classroom. Their classroom as a positive organization. They don't work for money. They have a calling. Their purpose is not to teach English or math or history. Their purpose is to create the love of learning. If I have this little kid in my classroom, and I create the love of learning in this kid, I've empowered this kid for life. If he's a minority, if he's disadvantaged in some way and his life path's going this way, but I create that love of learning, he gets the capacity to change all that, to take himself beyond what's expected. 00:11:23,720 --> 00:11:26,600 Everything about these people was different. What I love about that story is they're not CEOs. They're not kings, prime ministers. What are they? People working in the public school. If I asked you who left the most positive legacy in your life, name that person, you might say, oh, that's my mother. Or, oh, my third-grade teacher, or my coach, or my first boss. You would name somebody. If we did an in-depth analysis of your relationship with that person, we would find out that that ordinary person in your life who left this positive legacy had a transformational influence on you. It was the most positive influence you've ever experienced. 00:12:17,330 --> 00:12:20,600 All around us, there are people who live like this. We don't see them because we wear conventional glasses. Economics says he's self-interested. Resources are scarce. Conflict is inevitable. Now, all those things are true, most of the time. That's why the social sciences work. What the social sciences don't look at is the end of the curve. They don't look at excellence. They look at central tendency. And whenever we look at people at the end of the curve, we find a different model. And one key element is purpose. Now, how does that happen? Let me share two stories with you. Story number one, we're interviewing one of those schoolteachers. 00:13:13,250 --> 00:13:15,890 She's sharing stuff, and it's a really exciting interview. I'm writing stuff down. And then she tells a story. She says the first year I taught was heaven. The second year I taught was hell. I had five boys that second year, and they were in incorrigible. And there was one kid in particular, he was impossible. One day, this kid's in the doorway of the classroom, and he's kicking and moving his arms and making noises. And I lost it. She said, I'm ashamed to say these words. But I walked towards that kid with the intention of kicking him. Thank heavens he got up and ran away. 00:14:03,570 --> 00:14:04,506 I kept walking.