Problem: Your Group Lacks a Strong Sense of Purpose

Remedy: Seek, Find, and Share Resonant Stories

  1. Name and Rank Your Group’s Priorities

    Obvious but true: in order to move toward a target, you must first have a target. Listing your priorities, which means wrestling with the choices that define your identity, is the first step. Most successful groups end up with a small handful of priorities (five or fewer), and many, not coincidentally, end up placing their in-group relationships—how they treat one another—at the top of the list. This reflects the truth that many successful groups realize: their greatest project is building and sustaining the group itself. If they get their own relationships right, everything else will follow.

  2. Embrace the Use of Catchphrases

    When you look successful groups, at a lot of their internal language features catchphrases that often sound obvious, rah-rah, or corny. Many of us instinctively dismiss them as cultish jargon. But this is a mistake. Their occasionally cheesy obviousness is not a bug—it’s a feature. Their clarity, grating to the outsider’s ear, is precisely what helps them resonate in the landscape.
    The trick to building effective catchphrases is to keep them simple, action-oriented, and forthright: “Create fun and a little weirdness” (Zappos), “Talk less, do more” (IDEO), “Work hard, be nice” (KIPP), “Pound the rock” (San Antonio Spurs), “Leave the jersey in a better place” (New Zealand All-Blacks), “Create raves for guests” (Danny Meyer’s restaurants). They’re hardly poetry, but they share an action-based clarity. They aren’t gentle suggestions so much as clear reminders, crisp nudges in the direction the group wants to go.