The first official company event at thisopenspace was unorthodox. This past December while most teams were having holiday dinners at a restaurant with secret Santa gifts, our newly formed dispersed team gathered around laptops getting to know each other over mulled wine and hot toddies.
We didn’t have an office back then (I speak of it as it was ages ago and need to remember it’s only been six months). Morgan, Yvonne, and I were a sitting around my dining table in Vancouver, Adam was in Toronto, and Ellen in New York. It was one part company holiday party and two parts team building. It had been less than two months since we all started working together. We took the first step in building our culture and defining our company core values.
Inspired by Dave Logan’s famous book Tribal Leadership and Zappo’s Tony Hseih, we decided that our company core values will be shaped by our first ten employees rather than the values of the founders. Using tribal values rather than personal values to guide us will provide a stronger foundation for our company culture.
The exercise we followed is called Mountains and Valleys. It starts by identifying positive and negative milestones and plotting them over time and level of satisfaction. Dave Logan and the folks over at CultureSync developed this method and do a great job explaining it on their site. You’ll need to sign up (it’s free) to download the exercise here.
Here are my personal Mountains and Valleys:
Yashar’s Mountains and Valleys
From these milestones, we identified personal values. The exercise really brought our team together. By sharing our life’s highs and lows it was a special moment for the team. A few teary eyes and laughs later, we had all shared our life stories.
The team then took these and identified personal values on their own time. We got back together in January to share these personal values and identified common themes that formed the foundation of our team values.
These are the five values we hold to be true today:
Together, we are building the future of commercial real estate. We build products and make decisions around our core values. They drive our contribution to the world.
Seek first to understand
Everybody has something to learn. The decisions we make on are guided by empathy and our ability to receive deep communication. To broaden our understanding of our users and the world, we surround ourselves by people with diverse experiences and backgrounds.
Only hard problems are worth solving. Success is the ability to push past great and create magic. This takes persistence day after day. By setting the highest standards for ourselves we create our best work of our lives here.
There is always a better solution. Every day we venture into new territory and look at problems deeper. We are not satisfied with the way things are. We ask questions and are curious about how things work. We are adaptive and open to an infinite number of possibilities.
Finding a way to get it done is our superpower. If we can do more with less, we can do more.
Knowledge increases by sharing. Transparency allows us to readily pass on things we know to be true and share wisdom with those inside and outside our company. We choose actions that bring happiness and success to others.
The future of thisopenspace's values
Employee onboarding at thisopenspace now includes the Mountains and Valleys exercise. And our next five employees will directly impact our core values, bringing diverse life experiences into our team.
Building our company culture and core values is an ongoing process, and I am inspired by Slack’s Engineering Chief of Staff Nolan Caudill. He said,
“Every company builds two things: the products they sell, and the culture inside the company.”
As with everything we do at thisopenspace, this list of values is a continual work in progress. We will continue to revisit them and make sure they hold true, and that we are acting on them every day. It’s exciting to share these with our community and think about how these values will grow and evolve as our team grows in size and experience.
PS. Working at thisopenspace is more than just a job. Want to come along for the ride? We're hiring!