When developing a statement or list of core values, you should ensure that each item passes the “Well, I should hope so / hope not” test. It shouldn’t take a detective to figure out if something passes the test.
A few years ago, my friend Kathy Heasley, the author of Heart & Mind Branding, and I started to discuss (maybe rant about) how all corporate “core values” statements looked the same and whether they mattered at all. I mean, if something is a a core value, shouldn’t it be valuable? Can something generic and universal really be valuable? Her take was/is NO. Core values will not be valuable unless they are distinct and carry nuance that inspires the workforce.
She came up with an incredibly complex and scientific test to determine if a company has done a good job identifying core values. You can use it yourself:
- Write down a core value
- Say the core value out loud
- If the core value is something about which most would respond, “Well I should hope so / hope not” then it is probably not a very distinctive value
You see, if your list of core values is nothing more than a list of bromides (with which no sensible person could take issue) then your values are probably … well, less valuable than they could be.
Here are some examples value statements that are probably NOT distinct, nuanced and actually valuable:
- Integrity. We will honor our word. Well, I should hope so!
- Ethics. We will do business ethically. Well, I should hope so!
- Respect. We will respect one another and our customers. Well, I should hope so!
Here are some examples of core value statements that have a better chance of actually being valuable because not every company may emphasize or agree with them:
- Teamwork. Whatever you say about teamwork is a good core value because not every company needs to highly value teamwork to be successful. It can be and is a preference and says something about the company that values teamwork over individual heroes.
- Efficiency. It may sound surprising, but not every company aims to work efficiently. Valuing efficiency over things like aesthetics says something about a company.
- Design Thinking. A company that values design thinking is saying something about the way that they approach their work.
I could go on, but I think that the point is clear. Test all of your core values against the “Well, I should hope so / hope not” test.