It's easy to be dismissive—even cynical—when a company talks about its "mission," its "beliefs," or its "core values."
Because no matter what the U.S. Supreme Court says, corporations are not people.
They are, however, made of people (but not in a Soylent Green kind of way).
Companies don't think, but they can act. Companies don't feel, but they can suffer. Companies don't breathe, but they can die.
And this is all at the hands (and the whims and the talent and the follies and the luck) of its people—the people in the company and the people the company serves.
So when we set out to capture our core values, we decided to focus on our people rather than our company.
We'd like to think that this is less vague, less empty, less cookie cutter. Because values aren't just about what a company believes, says, or makes—it's also about who we are, how we act, and who we work with. That's what's really important. It's important that our people, our clients, and our work to be good. Not just good as in quality, but good as in principled. Here's what we came up with...
Our team (how we behave as a group)
- COLLABORATIVE | We all have certain strengths and interests and we know that collaboration makes our work better.
- TRANSPARENT | We practice a transparency that creates trust and inclusion, and encourages candor.
- CREATIVE | We try to find ways to include surprise and delight in everything we deliver.
- EMPOWERED | We provide opportunities to grow and the freedom to do the right thing.
Our people (how we live as individuals)
- HONEST | You’re an authentic person and you believe in what we do.
- DRIVEN | You’re curious, dedicated, passionate, and driven.
- POSITIVE | You approach challenges with a positive, professional perspective—and you’re nice.
- BALANCED | You use your whole brain. You’re creative and analytical.
Our mission: We make complex things understandable and engaging.
Our clients (how our clients behave)
- RESPECTFUL | Our clients are honest, responsive, respectful people and companies and we’re proud to partner with them.
- TALENTED | They’re smart and passionate about what they do and how they go about it. In fact, we’re inspired by their mission.
- TRUSTING | They trust our collaborative, creative process and they give us opportunities to lead and grow.
Our work (other client factors)
- FIT | Does it play to our strengths ...or... is it a growth opportunity?
- BUDGET | Does our client have the money to pay? Do they appreciate the value we provide?
- IMPACT | Audience? Internal or external? If budget’s low, is it a good marketing investment?
And at the center of all this is our mission: "We make complex ideas understandable and engaging."
Our mission gets at both what's useful and what's delightful about what we do. You can't simplify something that's inherently and necessarily complex. When you do, it becomes something else. A truck become a wheelbarrow. A motorcycle becomes a bike. It changes. Our job is to use pictures and words to make those things easier to understand—to uncomplicate the stories around products, processes, and ideas—not to make those things less complex.
We've decided that whoever we do that with—whether they're co-workers or clients—should have these core values. And I don't mean that we all need to be the exact same kind of person—we just need the same North Star.
Maybe our "Being Tremendous" poster is just a long version of the "No assholes" rule.
And that's fine with me.
Update—adjusted to reflect our refined mission: "We craft stories that turn good ideas into amazing actions and outcomes."