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Aligning Core Values with Content (CS Forum 2013)

One of the gems of CS Forum 2013 was Jonathon Colman‘s talk on core values, and how they drive not only business practices, but also the structure and substance of communication (i.e. content).

Summary:

At the very root of a functional business is a purpose, are a fundamental set of principles, vision and ideology that guide the implementation thereof. Without these core values, so strategy can be sound. This does not mean the core values will always have been articulated… the authenticity of values derive from behaviour rather than claims, so it can take time for them to be discovered. Within organisation, this discovery process cannot occur without breaking down the barriers between organisational silos.

Many organisations will lay claim to a series of values, because they sound good as marketing spiel. These values will usually sound generic, suitable for just about any organisation (which is a tell-tale sign that they are fabrications). Real core values are principles we can live and operate by, even when we have not achieved our ambitions. They guide our decisions, serving to resolve moral dilemmas. Companies that hold themselves accountable by publishing real core values generally outperform the market by a factor of 12.

When determining your own / your organisations core values, this seven-point check list will weed out the vanity values:

  1. Would you keep this value if you were not supported or rewarded for it?
  2. Would you still uphold this value if you were wealthy and didn’t need to work?
  3. Would you quit and find a new job before giving up this value?
  4. Should your organisation stand for the same value 100 years from now?
  5. Would you build a new organisation around this value irrespective of the industry?
  6. If this value became a competitive disadvantage, would you uphold it anyway?
  7. Would you fire someone because they do not uphold this value?

Mapping core values to content is about using them to express who you are, not some position you aspire to. As such, while your values may serve as a differentiator in the marketplace, that is not their purpose. (If you find yourself trying to use/manipulate them in that way, you are probably reverting to vanity “values.”

Raw notes:

  • Sine qua non: the things without which life isn’t worth living / thing’s aren’t worth doing
  • Without core values, there is no (content) strategy.
  • There’s loads of bad content on the web. We see it all the time. (Hopefully, it’s not yours)
  • Inauthentic core values cause conflict.
  • There is a conflict between the now of our organisation, and out aspiration. We can live by core values, we have not yet reached where we want to be.
  • Exceptional companies outperform the rest of the market by 12x. The published core values.
  • Core values are not invented. They are discovered.  They are corporate genetics.
  • If your “core values” could fit any company, they probably aren’t real.
  • Accountability to core values is vital.
  • Core values are the building blocks to ideology, purpose and vision.
  • We know where core values fit in everything. It’s in the name. “Core”
  • You cannot discover an organisations core values without bridging between silos.
  • When faced with bullshit, ask more (harder) questions
  • Core value test #1: Would you keep this value if you were not supported or rewarded for it?
  • Core value test #2: Would you still uphold this value if you were wealthy and didn’t need to work?
  • Core value test #3: Would you quit and find a new job before giving up this value?
  • Core value test #4: Should your organisation stand for the same value 100 years from now?
  • Core value test #5: Would you build a new organisation around this value despite the industry
  • Core value test #6: If this value became a competitive disadvantage, would you uphold it anyway?
  • Core value test #7: Would you fire someone because they do not uphold the value?
  • Core values are not what we want to be. They are who we are.
  • Be honest. Express who you are, not who you want to be. That’s good content.
  • Core values may serve as a differentiator in the marketplace. But that’s not what they are for.

Presentation

Jonathon’s presentation slides on Slideshare

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