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Purpose (revised review).

Purpose (revised review), by Nikos Mourkogiannis, Book, 2006, Palgrave Macmillan, $27.95.

I have seen the difference a good editor can make in the published version of a book. I read the advance proof of Purpose for the review that follows (first published in November 2006). The published book is much more readable and up-to-date. Transitions from chapter to chapter connect the arguments and build a stronger tie with the reader.

A perfect example is the close of Chapter 1, now called "Introducing Purpose." It lists six situations in a company that could be symptoms of problems with purpose--situations that can quickly capture the interest of senior executives and lead them to read further. Part I's historical examples now connect with suggested actions in Part II, and the two sections flow easily into one another.

Additional references, such as to the company Jet Blue and the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, more clearly relate the book's ideas to concrete, contemporary situations. Examples and explanations throughout the book have been expanded and clarified, again with the goal of aiding readers and connecting more strongly to their experience.

The book will probably still be used most often by graduate business school students and management consultants. Because of the improved readability and increased value for self-study, I've moved up the Overall value rating to 2.5 (Above average).

Original review:

After the Enron scandal and the resulting surge of business regulation, some people thought enough had been done to ensure company leaders would behave differently in the future. Not Nikos Mourkogiannis, author of Purpose: The Starting Point of Great Companies.

Organizations and moral purpose

Mourkogiannis, a London-based management consultant and co-founder of the Harvard Law School Center on Negotiations, believes that leaders of successful companies build and drive those companies from a strong sense of moral purpose, beyond the goals of profit and success, and that it's time to return to a focus on that purpose.

Four categories of purpose reside in the conjunction of competitiveness and morality; each can serve as a compass to steer an organization. According to the Preface, Purpose was written for CEOs, executives on the CEO path, and business students. Part I first introduces four philosophers and types of moral ideas: Kierkegaard and "the new;" Aristotle and "the excellent;" Hume and "the helpful;" and Nietzsche and "the effective." Mourkogiannis then devotes a chapter to defining the opposite of purpose; for him, purpose is not vision, mission or branding.

Individual chapter case studies on Tom Watson of IBM, Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway, Sam Walton of Wal-Mart, Siegmund Warburg of S.M. Warburg, and Henry Ford of Ford Motor Company explore how each leader demonstrated his particular sense of moral purpose in building and maintaining his company. This background of philosophy and history comprises the first seven chapters.

Applying the concept

In Part II, the remaining four chapters provide direction on how CEOs and other business leaders can use the concept of foundational moral purpose. Here readers will find tools such as "Six questions to discover Purpose" as well as models and tables that can be applied to identify and strengthen purpose in both people and strategy. The book concludes with four appendices, notes, and a critical bibliography.

This book digs deep and poses a challenge to readers. Many of us have not studied philosophy since the first year of college and have forgotten much. Faced with Aristotle and Kierkegaard in the first chapter, readers may be tempted to put the book aside without exploring the case studies. These abound in rich information, although they do require frequent stops for reflection. For example, the author places Ford and Warburg in the same category. Using Nietzsche to make the connection between Ford's interest in improving the world through his automotive company and Warburg's drive to create an elite class in society through investment banking takes time and effort.

Also, the case study chapters are ordered differently than the set of philosophers and moral ideas presented in Chapter 1, a discrepancy that can confuse readers expecting a parallel organization in the book. In Part II, Mourkogiannis provides a synopsis of steps to identify and implement purpose in a company rather than prescriptive details. The recommended steps and models, while useful, are lightweight for a reader interested in applying the author's ideas in an organization. Appendix Three, containing 64 key points intended to give readers the gist of the book's argument, is the most understandable and valuable section of the book.


Purpose will definitely find a place in the MBA classroom. Perhaps only there will readers have enough time to consider whether the author's purpose concepts can be applied in an existing organization in addition to an organization purpose-driven from the start, as shown by the case studies. The book demands discussion and debate for readers to absorb and understand its ideas. In a venue with these characteristics, this book can contribute real value.

Review by Ann Yakimovicz
Product Ratings

Purpose (revised review)

Holds user interest **
Value of Content ** 1/2
Self-Study Value ** 1/2
Instructional Value **
Value for the money ** 1/2
Overall rating ** 1/2
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Author:Yakimovicz, Ann
Publication:Training Media Review
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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