I genuinely love when people ask about my work at Vow.
Each and every time there’s this moment of realisation where scepticism turns in to “ohhh, you are making real meat, but without killing animals — that is super cool!”. It nearly always leads to a discussion on the technology, market, or their personal reaction to this emerging reality.
As much as I love the big shiny, exciting technology, that’s nowhere near my favourite part of working at Vow. It’s getting to be in close quarters with some truly wonderful humans, and working together in a way that is simultaneously inspiring, intimidating and energising.
So when Maddie, Katie, Stan were asked to capture the essence of Vow’s ethos and create our Company Values, we immediately felt excited and fairly nervous.
There were a mountain of questions running through our brains:
How to start?
How to gather input from such a diverse group of Vowzers, interpret it, distill it down, then communicate them back out in an effective and accurate way?
How to avoid ‘corporate cliches’?
How to craft a semantically rich set of statements that are unambiguously interpretable and maintain their meaning beyond our immediate milieu?
And keep it pithy?
We plotted a path, starting broad questions to every Vowzer, capturing every story we could. Stories of highs and stories of lows, moments of triumph and moments of despair, not to mention all of those uniquely Vow moments (tents, tents everywhere).
Then converged on the common themes, expanding these to find the underlying values and supporting stories.
Finally we testing these with our teammates and founders to get to an iterated ‘good’ version ready for polish, colouring in, and sharing.
It was a fun and engaging process — each time we got together, we quickly found ourselves in deep, wrestling with words, meanings and stories.
Some of the things we learned:
- A good set of Team Values should be unique to the team — there are lots of great Values statements around (see Atlassian, Zappo’s, etc etc) that we could easily have pulled from, but they wouldn’t have been Vow.
- Vowzers are passionate about who we are and how we do it — there was a lot of passion in what we heard from the team, and a strong desire to get these values right.
- Our values can both represent us as we are now (reflective), and how we hope to be in the future (aspirational).
- Including a ‘cuss’ word makes things punchy, but also potentially divisive — if there are some of us who prefer not to swear, then using crude language can play against our desire to be inclusive in our diversity.
- The stories we heard echoed what we know — we work amongst incredible people and we have done incredible things. Not everything has been a proud moment, but we learn from good times and bad times alike.
- Getting the wording right was tricky — we held a number of group sessions, plenty of back-and-forth on Slack, and when our human brains struggled to find the right words, we even dialled in help from the GPT-3 AI engine to get one of the values expressed ‘just right’.
Finally, we landed on these four values:
Act like the world depends on us.
At Vow, we are working on one of the most urgent problems facing the planet. Replacing animal agriculture with a more sustainable way of making food is not optional. It is life or death.
Vowzers overcome challenges together with unwavering optimism, drive, and ownership. We bias to action.
Care deeply and be kind.
Vowzers work collectively keeping kindness and compassion at the core of everything we do. We care deeply for our team, our customers, our world, and our future. We understand that progress will only occur when we invest in each other, share our skills and knowledge, listen, and lift up those around us.
Challenge everything (then prove it).
Vow has been built on defying conventional wisdom, and challenging how things ‘should be done’.
We’re not afraid to take risks, challenge convention, or colour outside the lines.
We ask the question ‘why the f&*k not?’ then prove conventional wisdom wrong.
Blow up the bioreactor.
Vow’s impact is built on learning faster than anyone has ever learned before.
We learn faster from our failures than successes.
We take calculated risk, fail, learn and improve unreasonably quickly.
If you like the sound of living these every day we are hiring now.
Already today these values guide our hiring, big decisions, and hold ourselves to them. Being a part of crafting them is something I am really proud of.