Business and Markets

Finding Purpose in the Spirit of an Entrepreneur

December 20, 2017  • Chris Grantham, First Mover Fellow

It’s not hard to imagine that as a corporate social intrapreneur within IDEO and a current First Mover Fellow, I found attending the recent Aspen Institute First Movers Summit in Chicago, a form of homecoming.

It was a deeply affirming experience to feel like I was among friends (although most I’d never met), hearing stories of their purpose, courage, perseverance and dedication to the cause of social impact through business. Stories of small or even large successes often in the face of personal career risk as well as cynicism and resistance from more traditional parts of the corporate innovation spectrum.

There was, however, one aspect of the event that was a little more unexpected and perhaps even counter-intuitive, and that was the choice of location – McDonald’s global headquarters. It was I have to admit rather surreal browsing the hallowed halls of Hamburger University trying to take some time for personal reflection and pondering the opportunity I have to create positive impact through IDEO’s work in the circular economy space.

That was until I stumbled across a portrait of Ray Kroc, the American businessman credited for building McDonald’s Corporation, and a quote attributed to him:

“The two most important requirements for major success are: first, being in the right place at the right time, and second, doing something about it.”

I found this thought particularly inspiring with regard to social impact work through business. It reminded me that I am unexpectedly in a position to make a huge difference in the world by helping to apply IDEO’s distinct tools and methods to the circular economy. Many of us may feel like we stumbled into our work without the clarity of a higher purpose, but we each have an opportunity for greater social impact. I walked away from the First Movers Summit with a clearer sense of my own purpose – a serendipitous responsibility that fate is challenging me not to walk away from, but instead live up to and bring my best self to fulfil. A sentiment I resolved that Ray would have found agreeable.


Chris Grantham is the Circular Economy Portfolio Director at IDEO, where he leads IDEO’s consultancy business in the circular economy. His personal mission is to help organizations collaborate, develop more circular products, services, systems, and build a movement of circular minded innovators. He has also been closely involved in developing IDEO’s partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, formed to advance innovative solutions towards a more circular economy. Chris is an Aspen Institute First Mover Fellow in the 2017 class.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn on December 17, 2017.