How to Think About, Harness, or Avoid Core Values
So the problem with shared values is, like I said, certain values lead you to not be able to speak up when it is important; you stand there and you get shot. But, when we discuss this idea of values, you can think about a lot of organizations that you've been part of, a lot of teams you've been a part of, probably are really great because some values that you all care about are there. The easy answer to this question is basically that not all values are created equal. I wanna kind of digress a little bit into talking about that. Different kinds of values, when we talk about a value, a value basically means a trade-off that you're willing to make. Right? A choice that you'll make when you have multiple options, and value it, unless it's going to kind of cost you something. So, there's three types of values that I tend to categorize values that we have in corporations or in teams. There's no-duh values. No-duh values are basically things that if you don't have them, something is really w...
rong and it should even go without saying. So there's a list of, I think, six things that the UN has of universal human values. And they are things like peace, and you know, equality. Those kinds of things that, you can say it if you want, but you shouldn't need to have to say it. So I did a little mini-study where I had my assistant look up every Fortune 500 company's list of core values. Turns out that 60 percent of the Fortune 500 has integrity listed as one of their core values. Which, does that mean the other 40 percent don't have integrity? No, like, no company should not believe in integrity. That's not one of those things that's gonna hurt you at some point. And, the only two reasons I think that you should list out integrity as one of your values and remind people, "Hey! Make sure to have integrity", is if you've not had integrity, and if you do actually need to remind people because you didn't do it, or, that's actually it. The other thing is, you could maybe list not integrity if you decide that you don't care about integrity. That's the only reason when integrity needs to come up. Our company doesn't believe in integrity because we're pirates? I don't know. You see what I'm saying? So, no-duh values, like don't murder your co-workers. Right? If you need to say it, something's wrong. The only time you should need to say it is if something was wrong. Then there's values that it's alright for a person not to have, or not to have high up on their list. And, we conflate values and virtues, the definition of that gets kind of squishy when we are talking about teams and organizations. But, if we're just saying things that we want people to do in common or want people to care about, I might list some personal values of things that I've decided are the trade-offs I'm willing to make. And, they kind of rank in order. So two for example, I believe in kindness more than... I value kindness more than I value justice. So if, all things being equal, if you put me on the spot and a gun to my head and I either have to forgive someone or give them justice, I will forgive someone. Like, that's just something that is important to me, that kindness. Now every situation is going to be different, I reserve the right to weigh those values and those options, but if you believe that justice is more important than kindness, then maybe we could have a debate about that. And if a situation comes along and we both have intellectual humility, we could actually get somewhere and that could be important. If we work on a team together, and a situation comes up where we need that debate, if I say, "No, you can't pick justice over kindness because that's the way things are done here." Then we put ourselves at risk. Why would we prevent ourselves from having the option of seeings further together? Right? So, the values that it's alright for a person not to have, or not to value at the top of their list, there's actually a lot of these, and I think that we need to make more allowance for this than we often do. Then there's the other kind that I call wishlist behaviors. And this is, a lot of times, companies, when they say values, they're saying wishlist behaviors. So, one that I really love, and I think that Creative Live actually has this value, is creativity. Creativity, it's a behavior. It's sort of weird to say, if you have to choose between creativity and not creativity, do you choose not creativity? That's almost like a weird false choice. In the case of a lot of companies, that is a reminder that we make creative things. This is our purpose. Our purpose is to further creativity. Not so much a value, as part of the story of why you're doing something. Right? It's like organizing the world's information versus kindness, or whatever. So, the wishlist behaviors, it's a tie to a purpose that can be really useful. But if you say to your people, "Hey, if you're not creative in this circumstance then we're gonna kick you off of the team.", that's sort of weird thing. You're just setting yourself up. So again, back to Google and "Don't be evil", this is their way of saying no-duh. Do the right thing, no-duh. We don't need to say more, so they can focus on organizing the world's information. You might actually put this on your list of "values", but really, this is a purpose. So, that's kind of my diversion into the myth of values. But I think it's important when we talk about teams because if we truly think that cognitive diversity and cognitive friction are the ingredients that lead us to progress, then anything we do that squishes those ingredients out of our environment, is something that potentially sets us up to make not progress, to fail. And I think a lot of the problems that we have in the world between different groups of people, different identity groups, kind of boiled down to, "We value this thing more than another thing." "You value that thing more than another thing." And, we're just not cool with that. Whereas, we used to have this kind of Hamiltonian ideal of two people who value different things going into a room together and coming up with a third option. Right? That story of Hamilton and Jefferson arguing over where the capitol should be, Anyone seen the musical Hamilton or know the story? They're arguing about whether the capitol of the United States should be in New York, where Hamilton was from, or in Virginia, where Jefferson owned land, and they came out of the room deciding that they will separate the financial capitol from the government capitol. Finance happens in New York, government happens in what became Washington DC. This turned out to be a much better option to actually have some distance between, and not have it in mesh government and financial system in a way that actually, inadvertently, helped this country make a lot of progress for many, many years. So, we used to kind of have that ideal in, certainly in politics, but if we think about our companies in that same way, we don't want to shut off options for that. So, the thing that can rally us in the absence of hang on too tightly to personal values, is that purpose. So, cultures versus cults. I love this diagram. Both of these things are a group that is connected by an appreciation for the same thing, or the same person, or the same ideal. This is a purpose. Right? We care about creativity. We care about organizing the world's information. We want to get to Mars. Or, we care about this person, you know, a lot of cults are built around a personality. Now, the difference between a cult and a culture is a cult says you have to behave and believe a certain way in order to belong to this thing. Whereas a culture allows you to think how you choose and contribute to that group; rather than fitting the cult, you contribute to the culture. And this where, again, I love the analogy of the United States or Buenos Aires, or any of these great immigrant places where the thing that makes the party better is that mix of differences. So culture is not about being the same, it's about being in it together. That makes sense. But I do think that in this exploration that we've gone through today of what makes for amazing teamwork, there are some no-duh values that we should maybe add to the list on top of not being evil and these are them. I think that values that every team ought to pay a price for is respect for each other, developing that intellectual humility, including people fully being curious about everything and being open in all the things that we've been talking about. So, one of my favorite people that I've ever hired at my company, was a woman who always said this, she said, "A value isn't a value unless it costs you something." And I think she was quoting someone but I call it the Kelly principle because Kelly was the one that helped me to understand exactly that. It's not a value unless it costs you something and it's okay if you're willing to pay a different price than other people.