On culture and values

From what I read in Wikipedia, the term “culture” is a modern concept that was first used in classical antiquity by the Roman orator Cicero as “cultura animi” or the cultivation of the soul. Being a Greek, I assume that I should know everything about “culture” and all its meanings – but I was so much surprised by the way that the term is used in corporate environments.

My surprise was rather positive: I was impressed by the way Zappos is proud of its unique culture and the underlying core values that define and cultivate it. I was reading a book on the Zappos experience and found out that these guys have gone way beyond simply documenting and articulating their culture in a clear way: they have transformed it into a whole Delivering Happiness Movement (that came out from a same-titled book).

And I really bought this by accidence, I have to admit

The part that really stole my heart was around the famous Zappos core values: where the author describes how the Zappos guys defined what makes the company so special in an open and participatory way; and then integrated the core values in all their internal and external procedures and communication. They hire using the values. They give performance feedback using the values. They breath, drink, eat, and sleep on their values. Quite a beautiful, different way of doing business, compared to the quite bureaucratic and rigid way of assessing performance and hiring the best talent.

Putting together all the contributions: valuable values

Putting together all the contributions: valuable values

I thought that it would be interesting to take the test: does Agro-Know has an implicit culture that has never been expressed openly but is shared among the people in the team? Could we stand such an open test of having everyone contributing to a participatory and collective definition of our values? So, I did it the Zappos way: a short e-mail to the whole team, inviting them to share what they felt that is unique about Agro-Know. Amazing contributions have been collected, sharing so many similar perspectives. The really fun part was printing out the emails, cutting and pasting (the traditional scissor-made way) all the contributions, and creating (again, the traditional way) tag clouds that illustrated how we feel.

Now we are in the process of transforming this into a more condensed list of values that we discuss with each and everyone in separate. I would like us to separate what is considered a real core value from other types of contributions, create a revised list that will be close to what we have in mind, and devote some time during our Christmas gathering to review, discuss and validate them all together.

So this is what I want Santa to bring me: the list of Agro-Know core values that we will use as the compass and driver for 2014…

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