On Seth Godin’s altMBA, from start to finish, on every project, one of the key questions that we all labored over (and still do) was “what’s it for?”.  Three short words that it turns out are very difficult to answer well…

New business idea?  What’s it for?

Developing a new product? What’s it for?

Improving your marketing plan?  What’s it for?

How many times have you sped off on a project without truly answering this simple question?

Answer well and it will take your plan further than possibly any other question you might ask yourself (and the team around you).  After all, if you don’t know then how will your customers?  The bottom line is, if you don’t nail this part down then the chances are that everything else that depends on the answer will become unstuck.

Now, let’s re-frame the question a little.  Rather than in the context of developing a new product or a new business idea, how about framing it as a change you’re seeking to make for yourself.  That new direction you’re trying to take.  What’s it for?  Maybe my multiple choice will help, pick a number (or as many as you like):

  1. To grow
  2. To challenge myself in a new way
  3. To run away from the challenge at hand
  4. To avoid that colleague you clash with regularly
  5. Because the culture is all wrong
  6. To help create a new culture
  7. Oh, I dunno but I need to do something, right?
  8. Because it’s the easier option
  9. The money is good
  10. Because its the harder option
  11. Because she said I couldn’t do it
  12. The future prospects look great
  13. Because I know I can do it
  14. They have great share options (on paper)
  15. They have parking
  16. To create change that might just lead to something really interesting
  17. To level up

So, which did you pick?  What’s it for? I’d love to know.




Posted by Steven Thomas

Fan of great ideas and (especially) the people that make them work. Steven is the creator of CurveFinder exploring subjects like collaboration, leadership, creative endeavour and personal development. He's spent over two decades working in the UK media industry holding various senior business and creative leadership roles, most recently with a focus on Digital Transformation and Start-ups. Accomplished coach and mentor. Seth Godin's altMBA Alumni. Lives in Edinburgh with his wife and young family. Always in the kitchen at parties.


  1. I agree the “What’s it for’ message resonates most deeply with me – during and now post-course. I ask it about every new project at work and use it to drive personal decisions. I have shared it with my team to push them to ask it as well. It’s the first step in asking the good, and hard questions, to get us to meaningful projects and next steps.

    I’m also asking it of myself when it comes to my career growth and next steps. The hardest part is being truthful and digging deep with my responses.

    Great post, Steven.


    1. Hey Abbe, sorry I missed your comment. Thanks for your kind words. Check out my recent post on Goal Setting with my Goal Setting Canvas, it might be of use. I’d also love to get your view on my Big Decision Canvas if you’re up for it? Thanks again.


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