Why we have a boring-sounding mission

Our mission is to provide a learning platform that employees value.

No, it doesn’t sound exciting.  No, it’s not a world-changing mission.  But it is an industry-changing mission, because such a learning tool has never existed for the enterprise.

Some background

It took us a long time to get to this iteration of our mission statement.  We were looking for something that succinctly and accurately captured what we were doing and how we believe what we’re doing to be different and important, but nothing we came up with had felt quite right.

Just a few of the previous iterations:

Our mission is to:

  • provide a platform that helps individuals and organizations learn, grow, and achieve more.
  • create cultures of learning within organizations by providing an engaging, rewarding, and collaborative learning platform.
  • connect employees around personal and professional development.
  • help employees improve their skills and advance their careers.
  • help employees learn more by learning together.
  • and on, and on…

The problem wasn’t that these iterations misrepresent what we aim to do - quite the opposite.  It’s just that they were a bit too squishy.   They’re hard measure.  And that limited their effectiveness as mission statements.

Take, for example, the mission to “help individuals and organizations learn, grow, and achieve more.”  Sure, it sounds good, and it’s something that we want to do.  But if you tried to really pin down what precisely that means, or how to measure it, you’d have a pretty tough time.

Or take “create cultures of learning within organizations by providing…” as another example.  How do you ever know if you’ve created a “culture of learning?”  How do you even define what that is?

Why this one feels right

This current iteration of our mission statement may not be the final one (businesses are always evolving, after all), but at the moment it feels right for a couple of reasons.

It’s measurable

One of the key characteristics that we were looking for in a mission is that it could be quantifiably and reliably measured.  In the case of whether someone finds our product valuable, we have a couple of obvious methods.  First is that we can observe how often employees voluntarily return to Pathgather.  Unlike most LMSs, which are heavily compliance-driven, employees use Pathgather only if they want to, which ensures that we can never rest on our laurels and must constantly be improving the product.

Second, we can directly ask employees how much they value Pathgather, and measure our progress by how much we can improve their subjective responses.

Now at first, it doesn’t seem like measuring ourselves in this way makes us very different from any other product or service out there.  But actually in the enterprise learning industry, this mindset of optimizing for the learner’s experience is quite uncommon.

It doesn’t exist yet

This brings me to the second reason this mission feels right to us.  LMSs tend to optimize primarily for administrators, to the detriment of the learner’s experience.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the administrator experience tends to be very good either, but at least there is clear value intended to be provided to admins (compliance tracking, most notably).

Employees, by contrast, seem to place little personal value in the organization’s learning system.  Just ask yourself: how many employees at your company would voluntarily use your LMS if you stripped compliance training away, and nobody was therefore asking your employees to use it.  How often would you use your LMS voluntarily?

Why this mission matters

This mission matters because we believe that ineffectual, low-engagement learning systems are holding organizations back.  In order to succeed in the future companies will need to adapt as fast as the technology around them is changing.  They’ll need to be less top-down and more flexible.  They’ll need to compete even harder to attract and retain the best talent, and they’ll need to convince people that their company is a place not just of work but of learning and growth.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, this in itself is not a world-changing mission.  At Pathgather we do happen to have a longer-term vision to democratize opportunity, which does fall into that category (the subject of a future blog post, surely).  But you don't get to your final right off the bat, there are a series of big missions that we first need to accomplish in order to get there.

It may not be flashy, but it’s very much needed, it would be unprecedented, and will be very impactful indeed.

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