How to find meaning and Purpose when it was not given to a self-organizing team?

9 min readJun 16, 2021


Best practices from our Be-novative Partner Hub

🌐 Experimenting with a new way of working together is always a challenging road to embark on, especially when the expectations are not fully clear and the success criteria are not clarified: even the most advanced ways of working together can fail like this. In the Organisation Design profession, we call this the principle of form follows function. Know what the work should look like and what the outcomes must be before you design how you are going to work on it together. Many of us for sure have met great initiatives in big organizations, filled with committed people yet despite all the good intentions and effort put into it, somehow not delivering. What might be a savior of these experiments to turn all that energy into something useful and impactful instead of frustrating?

Creating a Circle of Leadership Development professionals in HR to work together more efficiently and create more value means you can bring together the best knowledge and experience inside the company spread across different units and countries. But what happens if after a year despite all the great potential there is still more confusion than clarity about what to work on?

So the challenge is:

How to find meaning and Purpose when it was not given to a self-organizing team?

The challenge: The protagonist of our session this time was an HR professional with many years of experience and many ideas already. Her questions were around:

  • How to take initiative as a member of a self-organized group?
  • How to clarify the real Purpose of this team?
  • How to steer the direction into something meaningful?

The Head of HR of the company initiated the creation of the Circle of Leadership Development professionals in HR so there is commitment at the highest level, but not a very clear definition, of what would be the signs of success. In our Protagonists’ case, the 6 members are eager to create something meaningful and impactful for the leaders that can be a good answer to their challenges across borders and units.

The following challenges have emerged since the 2020 foundation of the Circle:

  • The Circle means a different thing to every one of them: varying on a scale from a think-thank all the way to a very practical owning the budget and cleverly spending it.
  • Working together as a circle means also entirely different things to all participants: the most common denominator is to do things together.
  • The 2 agile coaches supporting the Circle facilitated a first workshop beginning of 2020 about how they want to communicate and work together in the Circle- but no clear understanding about what they should work on.
  • The clearest understanding that emerged so far is that they are together to develop the leadership competencies in the company.

They all see the huge potential in working together, however, it is so far very frustrating, that they do not see how they can really create value for their customers- the leaders and how they could benefit from the variety of skills they have. The most they could agree on was to form working groups to create certain offerings for leaders targeting different skills development.

Bringing this topic into our multinational and professionally diverse expert community was a recipe to collect ideas from lots of different angles. Taking in everyone’s insights from our global Be-novative Partner Hub gave us valuable insights and a deeper understanding of how this works in the ecosystem Be-novative is thriving in.

Our process: We have followed the steps of the Reflective Solution Focused Practice and in the end, it was not just our protagonist, who came up with this question, but all of us geared up with new ideas, tools, thoughts, and inspiration. Elvira Kalmar, our Partner Hub Program Facilitator in the Spark Creativity online sessions facilitated the session. Participants were from different continents as always, allowing a diversity of perspectives to cross-pollinate from Italy, Hungary, Mexico, and Switzerland.

OUR 10 TIPS — Here are a collection of our wisdom and ideas we have offered:

1. START TEAM WORK ANSWERING THE ‘WHY’ INDIVIDUALLY, THEN TOGETHER. MAKE ONE CLEAR PURPOSE TO FOLLOW. Creating the Circle of Leadership Development professionals in HR without a clear Purpose has created a situation where the 6 members are swimming around like in a fish-bowl without any meaning just for the sake of swimming. They are internally driven people, so no wonder this situation causes frustration and even competition about what should be the direction. If there would be clarity on the Purpose, they would know WHY they are together and how they can create a meaningful impact. So it is possible to start right at the beginning, where each participant shares their ideas on ‘Why do we exist?’ and then they create a Concept Map of all answers on ‘What difference do we want to make in the world?’ Discussing it with the Head of HR would make the purpose clear and possible to follow.

2. COLLABORATION IS NOT FOR THE SAKE OF COLLABORATION. We have heard about a case from one of our participants where the company had a workshop about collaboration, even created an incentive system rewarding the number of collaborations - ending the leaders ‘collaborating’ on the Be-novative platform about where to go for lunch, or what kind of birthday present to buy to their boss. Collaboration should be tied to business and to the impact on the employees' and customers' experience, otherwise, it is a lost time the team did not use for moving forward with most important topics that drive value, solve complex problems and identify ways to tackle large growth opportunities.

3. COLLABORATION IS TO WORK TOGETHER TO REALIZE THE STRATEGY. In a good case example, we heard about how 200 leaders of the company using be-novative, who identified the key topics they should focus on and collaborate on - tide to the company strategy and strategic plan. When it is connected to the business, it makes real sense to work together to make things happen more aligned and better.

4. USE A BIT OF COMPETITION. Creating a competition to achieve the strategic goals and contributing to them can be a real motivator to enhance collaboration. There can be a winner of a trophy. This gives motivation, reinforcement, and an opportunity for acknowledgments. In a competition, you also have to figure out the evaluation criteria, so this could give guidance to the organization on what kind of criteria and behaviors are needed. The leaders could work out these criteria as well together.

5. UNDERSTAND THE VALUE-CREATION CHAIN. Design Thinking and Design Thinking’s Empathy Map will help you listen to your clients and employees, even when you do not get a clear assignment from the top. Follow the value-creating process and ask questions outside-in: How can we make a difference in our clients’ life? What should our colleagues need to do differently to make that difference? What should our leaders do differently to support our colleagues to make that difference? How should we support our leaders so they can best support their team members?

6. USE THE CORPORATE PURPOSE AS A COMMON GROUND. This should also help you in the value creation process-based thinking identifying the Purpose of this Circle. Every unit’s sub-purpose should be related to supporting to live and fulfill the company's Purpose.

7. DO NOT SEPARATE THE ONES CREATING PROGRAMS AND THE ONES BENEFITING FROM THEM. Circle of Leadership Development professionals in HR are working on a new leadership development training program. So it makes more sense to ask questions from the leaders, who are the direct clients in this case, and to involve them in the creation of the solutions. This is already a way this team could demonstrate what real collaboration means. The more layers and areas you involve the more diverse yet more precise understanding you will have in their needs and potential solutions. Listening is one of the biggest part of connecting people to the purpose.

8. INVOLVE YOUR ‘CLIENTS’ TO DEFINE THE DELIVERABLES OF THIS TEAM REGULARLY. In good agile practices, the client and the team define together the deliverables of each sprint. The client brings the needs and the knowledge of their priorities, the team knows its capacity and capabilities- and it becomes a forum of regular prioritization meetings that bring into life the changing needs and the changing solutions- the core of agility. Involve leadership team this way to take part in shaping the programs and training that are designed to help their work.

9. USE THE PROBLEM AND OPPORTUNITY CANVAS. The canvas helps to map these areas:

  • Background
  • Timing
  • Audience
  • Resources
  • Impact
  • Strategy

Problem and Opportunity Mapping workshop template on the Be-novative platform.

Once filled you can identify what are the areas you know the least about, so you can dig deeper with

  • Creating a survey
  • Run a be-novative challenge on this
  • Create a workshop about it

These are all different possible ways to involve the leaders in creating their own solutions in this case.

10. EXPERIMENT AND ACT DIFFERENTLY. If you feel frustrated and have no impact, create short, highly impactful actions besides the long-term ones. Have a question or challenge open once a week and ask for example: What would you like to learn next week? On the be-novative platform, they could even vote for the most relevant topic and all you would need to do is to provide the topic-related content for the next week making it available for them very fast.

What have we gained in the experience?

Our Protagonist took away many thoughts from this session:

  • First of all to take a completely different perspective on the problem: forget the focus on the Circle and how it is operating and to focus on their customers: what is that they need and how can we create value for them.
  • To lead means to make a difference to our customers (the leaders) so they can make a difference to the life of their employees who can create a difference for the customers of the company.
  • Once we know what we have to work on will probably bring almost automatically how we can work on that best together.
  • Knowing how we can create value for the leaders will give us a Purpose!
  • We have to involve our clients, the leaders a lot more and regularly to find out what this company needs to focus on inside to help to focus on the outside (the customers).

We also have learned a lot by taking this topic to discover deeper:

  • Moving from trust to finding motivation in looking at the customer: means instead of looking inwards the team members should look outwards
  • Every company is struggling with this challenge: it is about the work and how you organize people, but the how cannot come before the what (form follows function).

If you have an important question or topic, or would like to learn together with our community, just reach out to us applying to join our Be-novative Partner Hub.

Gathering knowledge and best practices through Collaborative Learning

About the Be-novative Partner Hub:

The Be-novative Partner Hub is an ecosystem of people and resources whose main goal is envisioning, accelerating and scaling the success rate of both organizational and product-development, creating impactful projects and meaningful solutions locally or globally. We share knowledge, inspire people and actively co-create new methods. We contribute to a better, more creative Earth.

The Be-novative Partner Hub members, consultants in people experience, organisation design and development, Design Thinking, innovation consultants and management consultants from around the globe are committed to learning from each other and with each other about the future of facilitating workshops and improving consultation impact and scalability in a remote world, so we focus on finding what works, we are non-judgmental, curious and tentative, rather than absolute in our sharing.

Each participant at our online biweekly meeting introduces the topic or case that occupies their mind and thoughts and chosen the method that would fit it best:

  • Deconstructing success: a new use case or step with clients or achievement in the organisation, that went really well
  • Best practice & wisdom seeking: with a topic to collect best practices, methods and tools that have worked for others within this theme
  • Shopping for ideas: a challenging project to gather peer ideas to figure out how to move forward best

This session was about searching for wisdom but a lot more came out of it, then just our previous experiences. We have felt the power of co-creation and meaningful conversations, the power of connectedness even if most of us have never met in person.

Let us know if you would like to join our expert network or take part in the Learning Community.




Be-novative is a Design Thinking and Innovation platform that helps organizations build breakthroughs collaboratively. @benovative