The importance of values and how best to communicate them

I was at a meeting last week to discuss the new approach to ING’s TimeOrange – an international storytelling platform we started with the bank three years ago.

Back in 2013 when we began… we wanted to use stories as a way to connect employees across the globe. To make it easier and so avoid getting caught up in endless issues with IT – we made the platform external.

Three years on and there has been a fascinating side-effect to TimeOrange. Without using specific words or language or anything strategic: the culture, values and DNA of the bank is coming to the surface. Like building a mosaic one tile at a time, it’s only after months of hard work that you stand back and see the whole picture.

Like building a mosaic one tile at a time, it’s only after months of hard work that you stand back and see the whole picture. 

Stories are how we communicate values and values are key to driving our (subconscious) decision making. That is one of the reasons we have used the stories of real employees as part of the global Employer Brand we launched for OLX this year.

The values and culture of an organisation can never truly be described with words – you end up with a list that sounds like every other company on planet earth. Yet ING feels very different to other banks and visa versa.

 Ihave a friend who works as a psychiatrist in London. As part of her studies she spent time studying at a university in New York. On day one of the course 100 people from all over the world gathered for the one-year course.

100 students gather in a lecture hall with no desks and no chairs. A feeling of anxiety and awkwardness that comes from not knowing people hung in the air. The lecturer walks to the centre of the hall and claps his hands. He welcomes the students and asks them not to speak for the next 30 minutes. They are invited to spend 15 minutes walking around the space. No talking. No touching. Just walking. After 15 minutes the professor asks people to pair up. No talking. The pairs walk around the room for 10 minutes before forming into groups of four.

25 groups stand awkwardly in the hall. Silence.

They are now invited to talk, share experiences, life, loves, likes, dislikes.

What do you think happens?

Four random people sit down and instantly connected – they shared stories of love, loss, friends, wine, sport, food, travel, safety, adventure, language, family, siblings… but what ultimately connected them were values and needs. Without speaking every person in that room communicated a set of needs and a set of values. They connected, found friends for life without ever uttering a single word.

The lecturer based a year’s worth of teaching on that single experiment.

Whatever we do, write, say, make, bake, cook or create is stuffed full of our intrinsic values – we can’t help it. 

Whatever we do, write, say, make, bake, cook or create is stuffed full of our intrinsic values – we can’t help it. It’s true of people as it is of organisation. Look around your house – it expressed your values.

The people you hang out with, the people you admire, the people you want to have dinner with, the companies you do business with… those decisions are not based on words... but on the mosaic of signals that our brains quietly process in the background.

For over three years ING’s TimeOrange has sat quietly online telling stories and painting picture of the values of ING.

 

  • How would your company’s values look if you didn’t use words?
  • What are the stories your organisation would tell?
  • When you stand back – what would that mosaic look like?