Defining core values is beneficial when you’re establishing or solidifying a place for UX within an organization, department, and process. It helps others who may not be familiar with your discipline understand what you stand for and how you work.
From a team perspective, core values provide a motivational foundation for the work you produce. That’s why teams should establish values together—when there’s buy-in from everybody, teams operate more cohesively.
“Leaders shouldn’t force values on a team—teams should establish values together.”
How to define your core values
To come up with our core values, my team drew from our UX experience and created an affinity map that helped us discover patterns in our thoughts and, eventually, our top 5 shared values.
Here’s how we did it:
1. I shared some core values that I found from various design organizations. Try posting these on a wall, or create a shared mood board online that people can easily add their own ideas to.
— Melissa Bowden (@BowdenMel) November 4, 2015
2. Each team member wrote and submitted 10 values they believed we already practiced. I used a survey tool to collect this data, but handwritten cards or Post-it notes are fine, too. Once everybody submitted, I exported a spreadsheet with all the values and printed it out. I cut out each value in preparation for the next step.
3. The team met to categorize similar values on a corkboard—and it turned out there were lots of common themes. We kept the environment and tone casual. Snacks helped spark conversations and helped people feel more comfortable.
4. Each person got a random value, read it aloud, and tacked it on the wall near a similar value that was already posted. Creating an affinity map of everyone’s core values showed us what team members viewed as most important. As we posted each value, we discussed its meaning and whether it was true.
5. We identified 5 common themes among all the values submitted. Together, we wrote our final 5 core values.
“Core values provide a motivational foundation for the work you produce.”
The team took the project a step further and worked on a collaborative design project together. We created posters that represented each of the core values. Each team member contributed in various ways, from defining the color palette to creating the poster design for a single value.
Think about what your core values are, and get others excited about defining them.
Post your core values in your workspace as a reminder to your team—and to educate others within your organization.
Ask yourself if you’re being honest. If you’re not, make it a goal to work towards that particular value.
When defining your core values, think of your team’s accomplishments and why you do what you do every day.
Use your team’s core values as a guide when hiring to help ensure new team members share the same values. You want them to also contribute to the team dynamic and vision.
“When you share the same UX values with your team, you create better work.”
If you’re a UX team of one, look for others who care about user experience in your company and form a user advocate group. Many people within an organization have a hand in the user experience of a product. Find other user advocates and create a group that meets regularly to bounce ideas off each other—and give yourselves a name. Bringing these user advocates together helps set the vision and expectations for defining quality UX.
Other employees have told us that our team is the most cohesive they’ve ever seen. We see each other as a second family. I believe when you share the same UX values with your team, you create better work and the cohesion is apparent in the work and to others. You can count on each other to remind you of these values on a daily basis.
Brainstorm ways you can incorporate your core values into your projects and work life. Our team holds regular design rituals. And on a monthly basis, we discuss classes we’re taking and we share projects we’re working on, including personal projects. It’s a great way to share and learn from each other.
Sharing a set of core values goes a long way in helping teams work efficiently toward common goals. By discovering your core values together, it shows that you value teamwork. You understand how motivation and engagement improves quality of work, and you value team cohesion.
by Dawn Ta
Dawn Ta is currently a UX Manager responsible for the user experience, research, and visual design of web and mobile products. She is a seasoned leader with over 15 years in the IT, marketing, and healthcare product development space. In the past few years, she has dedicated herself to mentoring UX design teams, advocating for user-centered design within organizations, and collaborating closely with multidisciplinary, agile teams to develop useful and usable products.