Startup Happiness Values Deck: Find your team’s cultural DNA

In 7 Principles of Startup Happiness we wrote:

We’re seeing a new type of entrepreneur starting companies lately; they are approaching their company culture with almost as much passion as the business idea itself, with the goal of creating the type of organization that they will be most happy being a part of.

We’d been working to create a canonical set of values that successful startup founders shared. As we began pitching these values to different startup teams, we found that each team had their own unique set of values. Startup founders start their own companies so that they can live according to their own values, not someone else’s! That led us to create the Startup Happiness Values Deck – a tool that startups can use to discover and discuss their own unique cultural DNA as well as to understand each other and work as a tighter team.

Here’s a picture of the cards:

Startup Happiness Values Dec

After testing out the Startup Happiness Values Deck on over 100 individuals and founding teams, in person and at events such as Summit at SeaLUXrQuantified Self, and Startup Lessons Learned, as well as with our coaching clients (both in person and over the phone).

We’re finding that it’s a terrific shortcut to creating meaningful conversations about company values and culture. Sometimes it also surfaces, clarifies and suggests solutions to current important issues the team faces.

We’ve been working with our friends at Delivering Happiness to create a version oriented toward the broader corporate and work world.   (If you’re in San Francisco, join us Thurs evening (6/23) for the San Francisco Delivering Happiness Town Hall where you can try out the first version of this new deck with your team! The first 40 participants will get to take one home to play with.)

Different versions of the deck have between 20 and 30 cards (we’re using an iterative process to introduce new cards and eliminate unpopular ones). We ask each person on a team to stack rank the values, according to what makes them the happiest at work, and we’ve been impressed with how unique and individual the results are.

Even more interesting are the conversations we have with teams after each individual has completed the exercise. The foundation and cultural DNA of the company is laid bare, along with launching points into understanding individual needs and differences, and turning shared values into habits.

Because the values cards are external, moveable, and tactile, people seem to be able to discuss difficult challenges with more ease, and reach solutions more quickly.

As coaches, we’ve found this to be an invaluable tool to help us create constructive conversations amongst team members very quickly. For teams who are experiencing challenges reaching agreement or making decisions, it often helps to explain why that might be happening, and allows us to facilitate solution-oriented conversations.

We are available for 2-hr or half-day workshops for startups, teams, or incubator programs; we will customize the material to meet the needs of your unique situation. We enjoy helping teams to learn, grow, and succeed!

2 responses to “Startup Happiness Values Deck: Find your team’s cultural DNA

  1. This card sorting activity was a great kickstart to a conversation about the values my cofounder and I share, don’t share and aspire to for our new company. It helped us get to the meat of the conversation quickly rather than just having a chat about values. Highly recommended.

  2. Thanks, Alon! It was super fun doing this with you both, and thrilled to hear that the good insights stuck!