VALUES: Mine – Yours – Ours

Posted July 2nd, 2013 in Business Culture, Culture & Leadership by Dr. William (Bill} DeMarco

VALUES: Mine – Yours – Ours

We hear a lot about values these days. All forms of social and traditional media bombard us with a litany of values descriptors, such as conservative, liberal, religious, family, traditional, sexual, political, and modern, to name a few. A lot of space is committed to “big” values issues to do with sexual choice, right to life/choose, right to live/die, right to bear /control arms, and right to privacy/personal security.

The popular press and social media occupy a significant portion of most people’s lives these days, with an ever-increasing influence on the social media side. They have become significant influencers on our values as individuals and societies. We are constantly bombarded with values statements of others, frequently masquerading as the truth. All of this leads me to ask the question: what are values anyway?

Over the past thirty-plus years, I have developed a culture model that applies to individuals and groups of people. I describe culture as the sum of the values, history, and folklore that, taken together, make up the unique identity of a society at a given point in time.

Today’s blog will focus on a big picture view of Values, one of the three major elements of culture. Subsequent blogs will cover many of the other elements of the model. I define Values as “the unique blend of perceived needs, beliefs, and attitudes that live in the behaviour of most members of a society”. The blend I describe is unique because the millions of experiences we each have in life, while superficially similar, are fundamentally different.

The uniqueness lies in both the sequence and influence of each experience one on the other. At a personal level, we are talking about millions of life experiences, from micro to macro and everything in between. This is true for each of us. So my dna of experiences is different from everyone else’s, in spite of sharing so much in common. Then put that together with the dna of all members of a society, and we begin to recognize the complexities. If you are part of business environment, just think of the implications for corporate culture!

I put Needs first in the sequencing of the values definition because without human needs being met, everything else is academic. Needs are the fundamental conditions required for survival/success. So many geo-political societies and organizations have disgruntled members these days because personal security and even a living wage are frequently in jeopardy.

Beliefs are ideas we individually recognize as being true. In the case of a society, Beliefs are ideas that most members of a society recognize as being true. Beliefs are very strongly held and less likely to change over time than Attitudes.

Attitudes are predispositions we individually have about an idea we believe has special merit. This is where biases live. Attitudes provide fertile ground for compromise and relationship building, as long as fundamental needs are being met.

To identify the real Needs, Beliefs, and Attitudes of self, others, or a group, take a look at behaviour. Everything else is just a collection of words! In the meantime, remember that all elements of culture, including Values, are part of a larger totality. Subsequent blogs will describe what those elements are, how they interact, and how they change over time.

Meaningful Reflections!
Dr. Bill DeMarco