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 core value, shouldn’t it be uniquely valuable? Can something generic and universal really be uniquely valuable?
Her take was/is NO. Core values will not be meaningful and uniquely 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 each other 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.