Why we do what we do
Our core values build the basis for all our decision. This happens automatically and often unconsciously. If you tell your friend straight in his face that his new haircut looks terrible, that is probably because you value honesty more than kindness.
Core values do not only affect our personal life but also our work life. Especially the younger generation is said to choose their job based on the cultural fit rather than the payment.
What is happening at Google (Alphabet) is a good example of the importance of company culture. For a long time, one of their core values was “Don’t be evil.” The statement was in the meantime dismissed from their code of conduct but is still deeply infused in their culture. That those “core values” are more than just phrases, can be observed by the recent protests of their employees against the $90 million payout to Andy Rubin despite the accusations for sexual misconduct.
This shows that company values can be more than just phrases - if you do it right.
Building our company culture
Mermaid Studios just turned 1-year old (hooray) and recently we decided that we need to define our own core values. You may ask yourself if this is really necessary for a small studio like us, we are (obviously) not Google.
Yes! ...and I will tell you why. As Mermaid Studios grew all of the sudden the number of employees almost doubled. With Hester, our CEO, being away most of the week and more new employees than “regulars”, a general insecurity developed about how things are done. Is it okay to just go for walk to free your mind? How do we communicate? Even though we all have our personal values a common ground to define our work culture was missing.
Finding common ground
So, we decided to do what we do at Mermaid Studios - make a workshop. Of course, Hester just could have set core values for her company but that wouldn’t reflect what is really happening. So, we started our workshop with everybody writing down five of their own core values.
It was surprising that although everybody used different phrases and words there was a huge intersection of what we deemed as important to us. This made it easy to cluster the values afterwards and come up with our 7 core values:
1. There is no certainty until you have tested it
2. Do more with less
3. Be curious and push boundaries
4. Good communication will solve 99 out of 100 problems
5. Be fully committed
6. Have fun and stay inspired
7. Treat others as you would wish to be treated
Those values refer to our working style and our attitude. Of course, they were not written down in that way during the workshop, but they evolved out of the sum of our personal values and the feedback collected afterwards.
Putting words into actions
But how do we ensure that our values are more than just a dusty word-document hovering around in our cloud? To implement those values in our daily work-life the second part of our workshop was dedicated to the ideation of different activities. We defined several activities for each of the value clusters and ended up with a set of activities to do on a daily-basis and occasional ones that should bring our company culture to life.
Our core values, as well as notes on our team culture, are now recorded in our on-boarding handbook. Every new employee is kindly forced to read and use them as a guideline. As we will grow, we might need to adjust them, but that is part of how we work – always iterating.