Culture hack for startups: Understand your values

NEW YORK–To be guided by values is to be successful, but what if you could not see or articulate it clearly? Last June 16, Columbia Professor Paul Ingram conducted a values workshop to willing participants at Alley which, under Culture Hacks, teamed up to hold the special workshop with Columbia Business School.

Culture Hacks is an exercise designed to help startups understand, develop and strengthen organizational culture.

“I know who I am, I manage people better,” a quote read on Ingram’s slide as the workshop tackled the importance of knowing one’s self.

As we know, values can be abstract or concrete. It can mean happiness, respect, integrity, accomplishment and efficiency. You can have a hierarchy on feelings and decisions. For one person, relationships can be more important than trust, integrity and honesty, while another person could place higher value on honesty.  The importance and meaning of values can change with the context.

Context, he said, affects values.  Ask yourself, “What is most important to you?”

One last reflection he asked the participants is to think of a great moment they experienced at work. Identifying the most important values is important but having access to your value lead to your best self

After his brief introduction, Ingram conducted the exercise by asking the participants to do build their own values hierarchy. Having a value at the bottom doesn’t mean it’s unimportant; it could just be a foundation necessary for reaching a higher value. However, he also emphasized how starting with your CEO value (the peak value) is crucial.

Look for means-end relationships (e.g. does openness lead to learning?), he said.

And when you have a working version of your hierarchy, describe it yourself. If it sounds ok, describe it to your neighbor-participant. Ingram said blurting it out loud helps you refine your hierarchy and realize that you can revise it if it doesn’t work for you.”

Have a “functional test of your values hierarchy” when you go over the exercise. Here are some tips:

  1. List your values with “1” being the CEO and move down the hierarchy. Then for the first scenario, point out satisfaction with your current job.
  2. Staring at the bottom of your value list, score for each value how well/poorly it was satisfied (1= violated; 7 = completely satisfied)
  3. Ask yourself for each value in each situation what you could do, or have done, to achieve higher satisfaction for this value
  4. Ask yourself if the values analysis is in line with your overall feeling about the situation (e.g., if you love your job, but feel all of your values are violated, this suggests something is missing from your hierarchy);
  5. Repeat with the second scenario, “Situation Where You Were Hurt or Angry.” The question here is to what extent you see your values are being satisfied.
  6. Make changes to your hierarchy that capture your key work values

Dennis Clemente

Shuttling between New York and other US cities, Dennis writes about tech meetups when he's not too busy working as a Web Developer/Producer + UX Writer and Digital Marketer.

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