More on values

Tony Goodson continues his thinking about values. Here’s a snippet:

I don’t think it’s our values which drive change in our lives. It’s our activity moment by moment and how we exercise that freedom to choose or in the case for most of us, to remain apathetically on auto-pilot.

It’s a stimulating argument. Some people talk about values as if they are the cause of our behaviour; and values-gurus sometimes seem to make this assumption. But what if it’s the other way round – that our values are “caused” by our behaviour? (For complexity lovers, what if they are an emergent property of the system?)

A good friend used to drive over the limit and insisted he was right to do so. Then he got so many points on his licence that he had to change his behaviour. His values didn’t change; the need to keep his licence trumped his urge for speed. And then… he started to discover he felt calmer when he drove less fast; and that he didn’t need to get places as quickly as he thought. That there was more time when he rushed less. So his behaviour changed first, and his values changed in response.

Robert Paterson posted a good comment to my earlier post on this.

I do think that organizations do have values but not in the way that they are evolved in a two day consulting workshop where they pick who they would like to be.

Another way of finding the values is to investigate how the organization actually behaves in practice – add this into the behaviour of the CEO and the executive team and you have a reasonably accurate sense of where you work and how things are done.

In this case the real values would look quite different in most organizations from the aspired values – but at least they would reflect reality.

This makes a lot of sense to me. And I like the idea of spending time looking at the values we actually embody instead of idealising. I also think that often when we really acknowledge what are doing, that itself can lead to emergent change.

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