mistake to write down values without necessary ambiguity – use stories. @snowded #lssc11

i followed Snowden’s talk on LSSC 11 via twitter, i.e., via reactions and thoughts by people being there, and Snowden’s own blog posts.

One of the points I made in yesterday’s keynote was that it is a mistake to write down your values, as the act of codification results in their loss. In effect we shift an ideation culture (the way we do things around here that we all understand but can’t really articulate) to an explicit rule based culture. Aside from the fact that I have yet to see a set of organisational values that were not a set of well meaning platitudes, all you are really doing is teaching the politically manipulative the language of power.

we need to [articulate values] in a way that carries with it necessary ambiguity so that the statements can adapt to context, and also so that their form allows for verification of actions, not just linguistic form.

Parables, fables, short sayings – often paradoxical in nature, archetypal stories and characters:

…. more pedigree and more sustainability than a few pious banalities on a motivational poster. All of them involve small, pithy and frequently paradoxical stories. The point here is that a story carries context with it, as well as the ability to create resonance. Critically it allows for ethical validation; saying that action X was consistent with a mission statement is easy, matching it against a story is far more difficult.

(emphasis mine)


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