Saturday, 21 November 2009

Values get together? - personal, communal and corporate

It has been said many times already in this blog that innovation is about the effect of changing values. Whatever influences the current values of users, customers or markets for me counts as innovation.

A value system - as I understand it - is what people use to base there decisions on. As usual Wikipedia both helps to clear things up and also makes things more complicated. Here is what it says about value systems:
A value system is a set of consistent ethic values (more specifically the personal and cultural values) and measures used for the purpose of ethical or ideological integrity. A well defined value system is a moral code.
Words like ethics, integrity and code in essence sound positive to me, but I fully realize they also apply in case a value system is not so well-intentioned. But let's leave that as an aside for a moment and take a look at what Wikipedia tells us next:

One or more people can hold a value system. Likewise, a value system can apply to either one person or many.

  • A personal value system is held by and applied to one individual only.
  • A communal or cultural value system is held by and applied to a community/group/society. Some communal value systems are reflected in the form of legal codes or law.
I guess we all recognize both forms. Yes, at time you seems to have other values that others and yes, at times, one really recognizes ones values in that of the group you are with. And some groups indeed have codes or "laws" that at times seem to work for you and that you would like to change a others.

A bit further down it says:
As a member of a society, group or community, an individual can hold both a personal value system and a communal value system at the same time. In this case, the two value systems (one personal and one communal) are externally consistent provided they bear no contradictions or situational exceptions between them.
So people can have and act in two value systems as long as these can "go together". In between these two quotes Wikipedia also explains corporate value systems:
Fred Wenstøp and Arild Myrmel have proposed a structure for corporate value systems that consists of three value categories. These are considered complementary and juxtaposed on the same level if illustrated graphically on for instance an organization’s web page.
  1. The first value category is Core Values, which prescribe the attitude and character of an organization, and are often found in sections on Code of conduct on its web page. The philosophical antecedents of these values are Virtue ethics, which is often attributed to Aristotle.
  2. Protected Values are protected through rules, standards and certifications. They are often concerned with areas such as health, environment and safety.
  3. The third category, Created Values, is the values that stakeholders, including the shareholders expect in return for their contributions to the firm. These values are subject to trade-off by decision-makers or bargaining processes. This process is explained further in Stakeholder theory.
I'll have to study this a bit further, but for the moment I wonder: people can hold two value systems when they go together, but when we add a third, the corporate value systems .... can they hold three? And if they can, do the three go together?

A hunch tells me there are sources of trouble here, can tell where, why and when. I'll dive into it. Suggestions very welcome.