This site is in beta. Tell us what you think.
Chapter 3 | Narrative

Purpose Metrics

In the previous chapter we explored the first element in narrative design and the three kinds of purpose. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to think a little about your own purpose and how to elevate it from a TO to a FOR to a WITH.

Now we will go deeper on the idea of purpose by looking at Purpose Metrics.

Purpose Metrics

Ringing the bell

We are all familiar with what you might call profit metrics: the measures that tell you whether you are on track to increase growth and efficiency. These include basic things like cost, revenue and margin. But how do you know if you are on track to fulfill your purpose?

Some companies have measures of social impact such as environmental footprint or charitable activities. These are important and valuable. But they measure your Purpose FOR, not your Purpose WITH.

So how do you measure Purpose WITH?

Measuring Shared Purpose

Did you ever see the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart? There is a famous line in the movie: “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.”

We can apply this idea as a metric for your purpose. Imagine that you have three bells in your office.

  • The first bell measures Purpose TO: it rings when you sell and deliver your product.
  • The second bell measures Purpose FOR: it rings when someone in your company expresses purpose in their work.
  • The third bell measures Purpose WITH: it rings when anyone manifests your purpose to the world.

The reason this third bell is so important is that customers today want to be a part of something bigger. They also want to know the WHY in addition to the WHAT. They want to know if your purpose is something you do in order to make money, or whether you make money in order to fulfill your purpose.



Consider Nike, whose mission is to inspire the athlete in all of us.  

  • The TO bell rings when they sell a pair of shoes.  
  • The FOR bell rings when Nike inspires someone to be more athletic.
  • The WITH bell rings when anyone inspires anyone else to be more athletic.



A company that orients itself strongly around this “third bell” is Patagonia. Their mission is to “build the best product [TO], cause no unnecessary harm [FOR], and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis [WITH].” Anytime someone does something good for the environment, you can imagine the bell ringing in Patagonia’s headquarters.

So let’s assume that you have your purpose bell installed in your office. The next step is to figure out what exactly rings the bell. In other words, what’s your Purpose Metric? How will Nike know that they, or anyone else, have inspired someone’s inner athlete?  

One thing Nike did in their Nike+ running app is create a feature called Cheers. When someone goes for a run, it can post automatically to Facebook. If someone replies to that post, the app sends applause through the person’s headphones while they are running. In effect, they are helping friends inspire friends. And they can measure it by how many times cheers are sent to an app user. Through the Cheers feature, the third bell becomes something measurable and tangible.


Purpose Metrics

To create your Purpose Metric, think about the change you want to see in the world. Something connected to your business, but not necessarily a direct result of using your product. Now imagine the bell ringing every time someone has that outcome, whether or not you were involved in making it happen. If you are a healthcare company, it might be every time someone gets healthy. If you are a beauty company, it might be every time someone looks in the mirror and likes what they see.

Share with others