Values by jgn on Saturday, February 10, 2018 in Iora, Reading, and Values

I recently read the article The White Darkness in the print edition of the New Yorker -- actually I read/skimmed it and skipped bits because I wanted to know how it would turn out! Wow. Read it. The article enumerated the values that Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922) sought in potential recruits for his expeditions. Those values were:

That's a pretty good set. The article notes that Shackleton's "conduct was studied by entrepreneurs, executives, astronauts, scientists, political strategists, and military commanders, " and an "entire subgenre of self-help literature devoted to analyzing his methods emerged." Those values do seem suited to entrepreneurs. Perhaps they could use a little tuning; for Shackleton's "physical endurance" I might substitute simply "endurance" or "sustainability" or "fitness," though anyone who has worked in an early-stage startup would remind you to take care of your body. Those are pretty clearly values that an individual would hold to preserve oneself: They aren't very "team-oriented"; we know that Shackleton himself was very focused on the survival of everyone on his team. I think the point here is that when you're chosing people to do something essentially crazy, you do want them to be able to keep going without a lot of dependencies on others.

This made me think about other sets of five values (why do values come in sets of five?1). Here are the values of my company, Iora Health:

They seem to go back to shortly after October, 2011, pretty close to founding, but I haven't managed to find the originary document. I'm not sure if those are ordered by importance; we inscribe them on a cube, which perhaps suggests that they should all be taken together (the last side of the cube has the Iora logo). The focus seems to values that pertain especially to interpersonal relationships involved with care. On the cube, the values are verbalized into something you can do, like so:

The verbs are interesting. As I reflect on these, I'm not so sure about "feel empathy": That seems a bit bottled up inside, doesn't it? Is just feeling it enough? I'd want to go for something like simply: Empathize. On the other hand, requiring a "demonstration" of courage is a little peculiar: Do I really have to "show" my courage? I think a lot of courageous acts are silent and not shared; you do something that is not in the safe zone because it's the right thing to do. But I'm not sure it requires "demonstration." (The dictionary is pretty clear that "demonstrating" is not about hidden things. One definition of "demonstrate" is: "clearly show the existence or truth (of something) by giving proof or evidence"; and the first few synonyms are reveal, bespeak, indicate, and signify). We have some internal documents that provide some guidance for each of the values. A few are interesting. For example, for "creativity" we say: "Use good judgement to do the right thing for our patients." Of course we should do that, but it is provocative that the gloss on "bring creativity" is converted into a matter of ethics. I approve of that, but it's a twist. Still, I would challenge any other company focussed on human relationships and caring to come up with an equally powerful list.

Here are the values of Scrum:

These values are quite appropriate to Scrum, and each seems to have been carefully chosen. I can see elements of Scrum that touch on particular values. Scrum, for example, expects work to be delivered in short increments; focus fits that. Meanwhile, Scrum requires retrospective meetings, where the team is enjoined to "inspect and adapt," and improve the process: Thus we have openness and respect. And the team is self-determining: How can you do that without making a commitment to your team members?

As I look at these different sets, I think they can be tied together with respect to some over-arching goal. And here's what I see:

Just speaking for myself, I want to live all of these values, but keep in mind their contexts. When I think about myself in the context of a startup, I want to enact Shackleton's values, and survive. When engaged in work devoted to care, it's Iora's. And, finally, when I think about the work I do rowing with my team members, it's the Scrum values supporting delivery.

1. I don't know, but here are the number of hits I get for each of "three core values," "four core values," etc., up to eight. It's a rough decline but a bump at five. Hmm.

number hits notes
three 307,000 Top hit: "If You Have More Than 3 Core Values, Think Again"
four 157,000 The YMCA
five 170,000
six 119,000
seven 39,200 The Army
eight 18,100
nine 22,200
ten 15,000 Zappos
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