Articulating Our Values
Several years ago my life took a few sudden turns and I found myself leaving the only industry I’d known with all kinds of mixed feelings.
It was clearly a time to reflect, to look inward and get in touch with what fueled my enthusiasm. Big changes were afoot and knowing myself better would allow me to adapt.
I took the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, the Career Leader Aptitude Test (more concrete, specific and useful) and started consuming a healthy diet of work oriented non-fiction. Some of the most useful books I read included Little Bets by Peter Sims, A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink, Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson, The Startup of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha and the Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom.
I interviewed dozens of friends and followed them down rabbit holes of inquiry. We discussed different businesses and what drives them, company cultures and industry standards; I took copious and detailed notes along the way.
I also gave myself exercises, some on my own and some with friends. One of these was our Good People Dinners, which has now grown into a wonderful and rewarding community; we meet in friends’ homes and enjoy meaningful conversation over a meal prepared by a professional chef. Another project was co-authoring a book with my friend Arjun dev Arora called Bigger Pie: Rise Above the Zero Sum Game. I wrote about both of these efforts here.
In the last 2 years I’ve consulted for more companies than I can count and taken active roles in 3 of them. I’ve never learned so much so fast, both about the work landscape and about what makes me tick, how I do or don’t gel with others, the contexts that spark me to consistently bring my “A game.”
Then the other day, my friend Arjun recommended Dina Kaplan’s wonderful piece on “hacking happiness,” and I realized that there were aspects of my journey in the last few years that might be useful to all of you.
In particular, I had given myself the task of articulating my work values in one page or less. This is my work utopia – I’d be happy joining or creating a business that only partially fulfills these ambitions. Though my answers here are probably different from your own, my hope is that they can suggest to you a list of ways you might pursue or invent your own future career choices.
· Authenticity – be real, be frank, be transparent.
· Innovation and Creativity – the power of experimentation, trial and error.
· Accountability and Empathy – Deadlines and deliverables, personal accountability. Empathize when things go badly. Sympathetic joy when they go well.
· Effort – Give everything you’ve got, expect the same of your team and the outcomes will be positive. Crunch time is welcome, all-nighters occasionally unavoidable, so long as we can find pauses to reboot in between.
· Harmony vs. Discord – contribute to sustainable harmony in the world, not gratuitous discord – this is not the same as Pollyanna rhetoric. We focus on solution driven discussions.
· Abundance vs. Scarcity – Think magnanimously about sharing and growing the pie bigger, to the benefit of all.
· Globalism – work incorporates international travel, languages and diverse cultures. The world is shrinking and our thinking should be global.
· Quality – work on something that is curated, edited, differentiated from the generic, something we can be proud of, demonstrative of potent creativity.
· Utility – create contributions that have a positive impact on and for others. Find a real market niche.
· Critical Thinking – work involves debate and critical thinking about how, why, what, when and where all along the way, encouraging the same in others.
· Intellectual Stimulation/Learning – work with interesting people doing interesting things, who have and maintain diverse interests and share knowledge freely.
· Novelty – projects vary and provide new areas for learning, growth and meeting new people.
· Syncretism – our work is cross-disciplinary and takes advantage of insights and perspectives across numerous specializations. We operate across silos. Systems thinking.
· Flat (not hierarchical) – the work environment is collaborative. Good ideas that are pertinent can come from anyone at any time, regardless of job title or purview. This is balanced with a clear decision maker in charge of each project.
· Entrepreneurial Autonomy – Small focused groups have a high degree of entrepreneurial autonomy, like nested micro-businesses. This allows for faster solutions – the opposite of administrative bureaucracy.
· Curiosity – work is driven by curiosity, risk taking, without foregone conclusions. We don’t start with a presiding desire to keep things safe because we are threatened. Rather we focus on challenges and entertain alternate paradigms to discover what might be possible.
· Fun and humor – work embraces play, levity, jokes, spontaneity and a limited amount of tangents as possible gateways to discovery.
That’s a lot, right?
Today, I’ve managed to further condense these values into the following. Who I work with matters most. Why we are doing this work matters second. And what we actually do (the products or services) comes in third.
If I imagine a legacy after I’m dead and buried, it’s pretty simple. I hope to have contributed to a rebirth of creativity for everyday people. I hope to have helped build positive and rewarding communities, wherein vulnerability is encouraged as a foundation for both strength and humility.