Aligning Your Values
I read a good book recently called Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker. Originally published in 1999, the short book is a quick and easy read.
In it, Drucker asks 5 questions targeted to knowledge workers and their careers.
- What are my strengths?
- How do I perform?
- What are my values?
- Where do I belong?
- What should I contribute?
The book posits that these are the questions you should be asking yourself to best direct your career.
The third question, what are my values, was the most useful to me. In this case, values is not a synonym for ethics. There’s no objective right or wrong here. For my career, it’s about the values I have for how a product should be designed and built.
For example, here are things that I value:
- A website can be designed and built to be truly responsive.
- Design should be obvious and straightforward.
- Accessibility and usability and performance are all intertwined and require consideration.
- The user should be the customer and the product should be designed for them.
Each of those have more nuance in their thinking.
With these values in hand, I can determine whether my values align with the teams and organizations I work within. If they do, great. If they don’t, then I’m at a crossroads.
At Yahoo!, for example, when I noticed that the work I was doing was more about the advertisers and less about the user, I left. I was drawn to Shopify and Xero because it aligned better with a business model that I value.
It’s important to clarify that these values aren’t right or wrong. They’re just different. I can see why a company might want to build a niche product on a niche platform. Or why a company might choose to use advertising to drive their revenue model. It might just not be what I want to do.
You could argue that this test holds for any relationship—i.e., any ongoing interaction with any other person, corporate entity, whatever: values determine the direction—not to mention the material outcomes—you're working toward. If there's any conflict or divergence there, you're eventually going to feel it.
Unless you mean 'responsive' in the human sense vs. the technical sense, #1 seems like the odd one out on the list, because it doesn't speak to anything about the process or the goal of the outcome. It's missing something that the others automatically imply.
In terms of one's personal paradigm, values flow out of beliefs, so you might say that responsive design is valuable because of some positive effect that it has on your internal process (unified content model, less redundant work, etc.) or because of some beneficial result (conceptual integrity across devices, better experience for the user, etc.)
I'd be interested to see you expound on that a little bit.