Mission Statements A to Z: Disruptive Companies (Pt. 2)

Claude Harrington 10.20.2015

Today’s post is a continuation of yesterday’s look at the Mission Statements of Disruptive Companies. Click here to read Part 1, which includes companies A-M as well as a quick glance at IdeaRocket’s Mission Statement…    

A company’s mission is more than just words on a page. It’s a compass; something that can simultaneously orient both employees and outsiders, while providing them with directions to a goal-driven future. It’s the written declaration of a company’s raison d’être; often inspiring and aspiration while also providing a sense of scope and history.

As such, it can be difficult to craft one that perfectly captures your ethos. Especially for companies that have either significantly evolved or are currently in a state of transition. But there is value in finding the perfect corporate North Star, so let’s take an A to Z look at the mission statements of several disruptive companies. Let’s see what they can tell us about the companies themselves. And also see what they can teach us to better evaluate the trajectory of our own organizations. 

Mission Statements A to Z: Disruptive Company Edition

[Note: this list does not include several well-known, innovation-driven Fortune 500 companies (i.e. Apple, Intel, Microsoft) who will be included in a similar piece later this month]

[Note: this list does not include several well-known, innovation-driven Fortune 500 companies (i.e. Apple, Intel, Microsoft) who will be included in a similar piece later this month]

Netflix: Linear TV is popular and ripe for replacement…

Actually, that’s not really true. That quote is an opening line from an 11-page document that Netflix created to outline their long-term view. In truth, Netflix doesn’t have a formal mission statement, which perhaps isn’t terribly surprising given that in the company’s short lifespan it’s implicit mission has already dramatically changed three times:

  • It began as a DVD-through-mail rental service
  • Evolved into a leader of streaming television
  • Now produces several exclusive-award winning series.

So why is a company with no mission statement at the top of such a list? To remind us that business plans can quickly change (and that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing). That said, it’s also meant to remind us that even in a context like this, having an overall mission and vision still matters.

To maintain consistency in whatever uncertain future may come there way, Netflix clings to a core set of company values that demonstrate the standards with which it wants its employees to function in their daily decisions and activities:

  • Judgment
  • Productivity
  • Creativity
  • Intelligence
  • Honesty
  • Communication
  • Selflessness
  • Reliability
  • Passion

Oculus: Immersive virtual reality technology that’s wearable and affordable

The VR hardware-maker Oculus burst onto the scene in late 2012 and has continued to make headlines since its $2 billion acquisition by Facebook in 2014. One of the key’s to the company’s success–which can be seen directly in that mission statement–is the notion of bringing an accessible simplicity to a complicated, sci-fi-like topic.

Pinterest: To connect everyone in the world through the things they find interesting

Pinterest is a pinboard-style photo sharing site that allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections such as events, interests, hobbies and more. To this end, it would appear, they are operating on par with their mission. But that statement is so vague, especially the second half, that it’ll be interesting to see how they evolve in the next few years. Especially as social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter become more and more content focused.

Quirky: We make invention accessible.

That’s a noble mission, but one that thus far has perhaps been a bit too idealistic. In July, Quirky announced layoffs and struggles to raise money. In August, CEO Ben Kaufman stepped down from his post. And in September, the invention startup filed for bankruptcy. Those unfortunate results aside, Quirky’s mission really is inspiring. Especially when coupled with the following corporate comments that elaborate on that purpose: “We believe the best ideas in the world aren’t actually in the world, they’re locked inside people’s heads. We exist to solve that problem.”

Roche: Doing now what patients need next

In 2013, Severin Schwan (Roche CEO since 2008) sent a short memo to his employees entitled “New Purpose Statement for the Roche Group.” His words provide a glimpse into why statements of mission, purpose and vision matter, so we thought it would be fitting to include the beginning of his letter:

I have enjoyed working at Roche for 20 years. Why? Because I’ve always known that we can make a difference to the lives of people and their families through the medicines and diagnostic solutions that we develop.

For many years the Roche Group has had mission statements, tag lines and slogans, all of which have tried to capture this idea in some way. They are all different and, after listening to many colleagues across the organization, I felt it was time to develop a new, common purpose statement for our company. Importantly, I wanted this to speak to our hearts as well as our minds and be something that we can all aspire to – no matter in which organization or location we work. Here it is:

Doing now what patients need next

We believe it’s urgent to deliver medical solutions right now – even as we develop innovations for the future. We are passionate about transforming patients’ lives. We are courageous in both decision and action. And we believe that good business means a better world…

The full text of Schwan’s letter can be found here.

Snapchat: Real-time sharing of impermanent content.

In an era where social media ventures appear to be popping up left and right, Snapchat really managed to differentiate themselves from a slew of copycats by focusing exactly on that promise of real-time.

Twitter: To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.

Comments: Twitter has continued to deliver on this mission–improving image layout, video functionality, etc.–provided, of course, that the ideas being shared are 140 characters or less…

Uber: Transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere, for everyone

In the course of this mission, Uber has transformed the transportation landscape in nearly 200 cities around the world. But interestingly enough, Uber has come under the crosshairs of several vocal critics. “Our mission has become a surprisingly controversial topic,” said Travis Kalanick, the company’s founder and CEO, in a statement that appeared on Uber’s website. “Over the years, what I’ve come to realize is that this controversy exists because we are in the middle of a political campaign and it turns out the candidate is Uber. Our opponent – the Big Taxi cartel – has used decades of political contributions and influence to restrict competition…The result is that not enough people here in America and around the world know our story, our mission, and the positive impact we’re having. Uber has been in a campaign but hasn’t been running one. That is changing now.”

Vimeo: Our mission is to inspire and empower people who make video.

This mission statement was further elaborated upon by Global Communications Director Deborah Szajngarten. “We are a service to video creators,” she continued. “We’re not television, we don’t want to be television, we don’t allow mass media distribution on our site. Part of our upload terms states you have to be the creator of that video in order to post it. We’re also very particular about not allowing truly commercial content on the site either. Although we allow you to have your showreel up but if you’re like Ford and you want to put up a TV commercial of your work you’ve got to pay us.”

Warby Parker: Warby Parker was founded with a rebellious spirit and a lofty objective: to offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.

Rarely with eyewear do you hear allusions to rebelliousness and revolution. Warby Parker was aware of that when crafting this message and, thus far, has lived up to its lofty and pugnacious promise.

Xilinx: Enabling Smarter, Connected, and Differentiated Systems and Networks

Driven by the industry-wide shifts towards Cloud Computing, SDN/NFV, Video Everywhere, Embedded Vision, Industrial IoT, and 5G Wireless, Xilinx innovations enable these applications that are both, software defined, yet hardware optimized. Luckily, and wisely, Xilinix shies away from that mouthful in their mission statement and gets straight to the point in an engaging and active way.

Yahoo!: To connect people to their passions, communities, and the world’s knowledge

What’s most interesting about this Mission Statement is how it came to be. In 2006, SVP Brad Garlinghouse sent out an internal memo that later became known as the “Peanut Butter Manifesto.” In it, he called on the company to “boldly and definitively declare what we are and what we are not.” Six months later, a new Mission Statement was born…

Zappos: To provide the best customer service possible

Look at that! Nothing about shoes or delivery or online shopping. Just a commitment to customer service, first and foremost. And that really speaks volumes about Zappos who, to this day, continues to lead the customer service charge amongst online retailers (as anyone who’s ever unexpectedly received Zappos’ free two-day shipping can attest).

Yesterday, we began all of this by discussing IdeaRocket’s Mission Statement. And today, to close out our A-Z journey we wanted to end with something similar. Like several of the companies on this list, IdeaRocket is also guided by a list of core ideas/principals. These key concepts—our “Principal Principles”—are what guide us in everything we do: 

  • We strive for quality in our work, then quantity
  • We internalize our clients’ business objectives, and serve those objectives with the videos we create
  • We give clients our best recommendations, but recognize that they are the best arbiters of what video they need
  • We do all we can to let our clients know what they can expect from us, then we exceed those expectations
  • We join to create an environment where our co-workers can flourish professionally while maintaining a work/life balance
  • We offer our ideas to each other openly, and hear them openly
  • We won’t be shy about airing our differences with each other, creative and otherwise, because we realize that conflict can be productive and positive. However, we will always treat our co-workers with respect and civility
  • We will explore new creative avenues, learn new tools, and seek out new ways to serve our clients
  • We have a constituency we never meet: the viewers of our videos. We will endeavor to bring beauty and delight to the time they spend with our videos, enriching the cultural air we breathe

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