At Moment, our core values (Openness, Collaboration, and Empathy) are just that; the principles we hold at our core that define the most elemental expectations we have for one another. These concepts are critical to Moment because they’re critical to individual growth. While this may not always seem the case, Moment’s growth as a company and the growth of each individual are inextricably linked. They are one and the same.
Moment cannot grow unless all of us are finding, defining, and stepping into ever-expanding roles. We believe that a shared commitment to Openness, Collaboration, and Empathy provides a particularly solid foundation for both personal and professional growth. At a recent company meeting, I revisited these concepts and think others in the design community may find value exploring these concepts further with us.
Openness is often equated to our willingness to share and to give and receive honest and constructive feedback. That definition might be true, but it’s incomplete.
An aspect of openness that is often overlooked is vulnerability. Vulnerability is how we allow ourselves to be seen. It’s how we expose our thinking and point of view to other people. Being vulnerable is what allows us to move into uncertain, often demanding situations and expose ourselves to risk.
Growth cannot happen if we, collectively or individually, are not open to vulnerability and the personal risk that comes with it. Growth and development are types of change where risk will always be present. Confronting risk head on, every day, takes courage. It can be uncomfortable to be open and vulnerable with those closest to us in life, and to be that way with coworkers can be downright terrifying.
In Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, she devotes a section to the notion that we should bring our whole selves to work. She points out that the divisions between our personal and professional selves are far more ambiguous than we sometimes believe or want them to be. When we discuss Openness, we’re not talking about purging or over-sharing — it’s important we respect boundaries — but we agree that bringing your whole self to work is a necessary part of a commitment to Openness. This can feel challenging, but the good news is that you’re not facing this challenge alone.
If Openness encourages us to be vulnerable with one another, Collaboration is the respect we have for one another’s Openness.
Like Openness, Collaboration often gets put in a small box. It gets defined as the physical act of collaborating; the moments where you can say, “Look, Mom! I’m doing it! I’m collaborating!”
Too often, we see Collaboration relegated to a fraction of it’s potential by equating the principle with observable actions, like:
“I locked myself in a small room with my team for four hours.”
“I stood at a whiteboard with people and we moved post-it notes around for the entire day.”
“I had five meetings with my client this week.”
The above statements might be true, and they might represent hard work, but they don’t guarantee collaboration. Real collaboration requires listening to one another and respecting what we learn from one another.
Similarly, co-creation is a part of collaboration but isn’t the same thing. Collaboration requires trusting others, exposing them to your thought process and being exposed to theirs. Collaboration is an open dialogue among a small team of people who trust one another, who are unguarded, who are focused outside themselves, and who are working hard to listen to one another. The result is often shared consciousness and a shared authorship of ideas that no single person could have arrived at independently. Hopefully you will have had these types of collaborative experiences in your career. If you haven’t, well, we hope this gives you some idea about what needs to change.
It’s worth noting that these principles of Collaboration are not limited to discussions among designers. You’ll get benefit from these exchanges with anyone with whom you share a mission. It’s a concept that Google researchers recently referred to as “Psychological Safety” in a New York Times Magazine article that has been making the rounds. It’s a good read, highly recommended.
As you think about Collaboration, you’ll realize that good Collaboration is based on trust and that (at least) half of Collaboration is listening. What is something that establishes trust and underpins good listening skills? Empathy.
Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing; and to do so from the other person’s frame of reference. It’s the capacity to put yourself in another person’s position.
When we talk about Empathy in our day-to-day work, a lot of what we mean is that we work hard to understand the people we’re designing for and that we strive to be tuned in to what our clients need. That’s a big part of it, but it also means taking on another person’s perspective, postponing judgment, and recognizing another person’s emotional reality.
Empathy isn’t an inherent human instinct. Like Openness and Collaboration, Empathy is a skill that has to be developed. We often need to rely on tools and activities designed to give us insight into how others perceive the world. If we expect people to be open and vulnerable with us, listen to us, trust us and respect us, we have to show Empathy. The converse is also true. It’s very difficult to open yourself up to someone — to feel trusted and respected — if you’re not confident they understand what you feel and can see your point of view.
The result: A culture that’s worth the effort
Combined, our values create the context in which we can grow — individually, and as a company (or society, even). But they are a lot of work. Why do we work so hard to create an environment that’s so demanding and uncomfortable? Why didn’t we choose happiness, ice cream, and rainbows as core values?
Moment’s culture is the way it is because it demands certain things from us. These core values challenge, guide us, and make us stronger. Nobody ever intended for Moment to be a place where everyone is simply comfortable. Comfort isn’t what gets us out of bed in the morning. We want to grow.
Growth requires vulnerability, uncertainty, the empathetic support of one another — things that people are not naturally hard-wired to deal with. Growth requires work. But this work results in greater confidence in ourselves and in our company.
This post was originally published on Moment’s Medium publication, Design Intelligence.