The Power of Purpose-Driven Product Experience Design

Chris Shayan
5 min readMar 29, 2022

pur·pose /ˈ pərpəs / Noun: The reason why something exists. For companies, it is the foundation of every experience. It is the underlying essence that makes a brand or a product relevant and necessary.

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In 2009 I read a book called Drive by Daniel Pink which is based on Motivation theory. This book profoundly shaken my formation of thoughts and way of living. Motivation theory is the study of understanding what drives a person to work towards a particular goal or outcome. It’s relevant to all of society but is especially important to business and management. That’s because a motivated employee is more productive, and a more productive employee is more profitable. In his book, “Drive,” Daniel Pink proposes a new motivational model that he believes is a better fit for today’s creative and innovative workplaces. Pink’s model focuses on enabling people to become intrinsically motivated — that is, using internal drivers for motivation. He calls this behavior “Type I.” It contrasts with the traditional model of extrinsic motivation, or “Type X” behavior, which focuses on motivating people through reward and punishment.

To build an intrinsically motivated team, you need to focus on three key factors:

  1. Autonomy — people are trusted and encouraged to take ownership of their own work and skill development.
  2. Mastery — people see no limits to their potential and are given the tools that they need to continue to improve their skills.
  3. Purpose — people are encouraged to use their skills to achieve a “greater” purpose — for instance, getting involved in a “good cause” that they’re passionate about. The Why.

Short Story: During my time at VietnamWorks, we wanted to launch a program called “ 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed” which basically was we refund you fully if you are unhappy with our service. The debate was everyone was saying, we won’t abuse this if we were the customers but other customers potentially will abuse this and we might lose profit. However, thanks to our founder we decided to finally launch the program and the fun fact is not even a single customer abused it. Customers understood the “” of 100% satisfaction guaranteed. Purpose is something that has keeps me up at night all the time for years. In this journey, I found and learned about ikigai and many others.

Every company has goals and objectives, but not every has a purpose. A purpose-driven product experience is one that is motivated by a core mission, a mission that transcends the surface-level service or product they provide. It’s a product that exists to solve a problem or meet a need in society, to make the world a better place, and everything they do ties back to that purpose. The purpose comes through in their mission statement, goals, visual identity, company culture, operational processes, and so on.

One especially notable interpretation, and perhaps one of the easiest to understand, comes from Disney, which draws a clear distinction between mission and purpose. In its explanation, a company mission exemplifies what we do, while purpose defines why we do it. The mission is to operate a business, lay bricks and park cars, while the purpose is to share in a dream, build cathedrals and create happiness. It’s inspirational stuff, truly. But is it enough? And, more importantly, is it authentic?

“Society increasingly is turning to the private sector and asking that companies respond to broader societal challenges. Indeed, the public expectations of your company have never been greater…Every company must not only deliver financial performance but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential.” — Larry Fink

The Five Properties of Purpose. To further clarify the essence of purpose-and help organizations steer clear of surface purpose- BCG has identified five properties of true purpose. To ensure purpose that is ingrained in the organization, BCG offers the following litmus test: a set of questions for each property that organizations should be able to answer.

  • Presence. Is the organization’s purpose clear, compelling, and noticeable to customers and employees? Do they understand it enough to describe it, beyond what the company makes or sells?
  • Strength. Is the organization’s purpose inspiring? Does it reflect a real need in society? Is it a rallying cry? Could it be as relevant tomorrow as it is today? Does it suggest that the organization is resilient in the face of an unknown future?
  • Alignment. Does the purpose reflect the company’s roots, history, and DNA? Do leaders believe in it? Does it motivate them to take certain actions? Do leaders feel that being part of the company is being part of a movement?
  • Integration. Are the company’s decisions in harmony with its purpose? Does the company live its purpose with passion? Would leaders turn down a profitable opportunity or disengage from a business activity if it wasn’t tied to the purpose?
  • Advocacy. Does purpose elicit greater loyalty from employees and customers? Are people more engaged with the company because of it? Would employees and customers recommend the company to others because of its purpose?

Purpose-Driven Experience Design

Equal parts proven process and design philosophy, Purpose-Driven Design is ETR’s proprietary framework for solving design challenges.

ETR claims they look for purpose in every decision they make and every pixel they put on a page. From strategy to implementation, they make sure every decision is rooted in making the user’s experience better. They make products that not only solve your business problems but also ones that users love to use. A user is anyone who interacts with a product: from consumer end-users, to important stakeholders, and internal staff who will be working with the product on a daily basis. They leverage user data to better understand their needs and create products that make their lives better.

The ultimate goal of Purpose-Driven Product Experience Design is to give people (users, customers, staffs, stakeholders, call centers, etc) their time back. Purpose-Driven Product Experience Design must accomplish this by running an efficient process and by designing products that reduce friction.

ETR’s digital product design process is broken down into four main phases: Discovery, Strategy, Execution, and Growth. The steps within each phase along with Purpose-Driven Design, design philosophy and framework they use to solve problems, lead through every project.

You can read the detail explanation of ETR approach in here.

What approach or methodology do you use for your Purpose-Driven Product Experience Design?