I’m a big fan of Apple as a creative organisation. I was lucky enough to work with them last year and, during a conversation with the HR Director I asked about their values – they have just one: “Being Apple”.
Not only is this a bit ambiguous – they do nothing to qualify or specifty it. Although this may cause problems with performance management, “Sorry, you’re just not Apple enough,” having the confidence to be ambiguous about values is the stuff of genius – at last an organisation that understands what values really are!
Even though it’s ambiguous, the people at Apple do know what it means – it’s an attitude and although they cannot define it they can provide examples that communicate the spirit of it. A value is tacit, you feel it, it drives behaviour (including creativity) and we will all attribute a slightly different meaning to a value. As an example, let’s imaging you had a value of ‘creativity’ – it’s a great value, but how could you possibly describe it as a behaviour? If someone were in a meeting demonstrating creativity – how would you know? There could be so many ways, and no two people do it exactly the same way. Any evaluation of what a value is would be ridiculously subjective. To specify the value as a behavioural description takes the value away from the value. Values are ‘big picture’ so if you provide detailed descriptions they are no longer values – they are limiting instructions.
When you go into the office at Apple – you can feel what ‘Being Apple’ is from the environment and the behaviour of people around you. Environment and behaviour of others influences your behaviour far more than any carefully constructed words ever could….
In case you are interested, Ben and I have developed a facilitation game for helping individuals to genuinely connect with values. It’s featured in the last chapter of our book ‘Feedback or Criticism?’