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IMC core values

Playfully exploring “core values”

These days, almost any social organization, from small businesses and football clubs to multinational companies and nation states, try to define their ‘core values’. The IMC is no exception here. Values can set an organisation apart from others, by clarifying its identity and serving as a reflection point for its members. In times of change, and when there is a flux of people and structures, it can be especially important to make explicit some of the attractors and topologies, which guide the unfolding of practices.

However, a problem with “core values” is that they are at the same time descriptive and normative, as much a model for the organization as a model of the organization. And thus, they have some of the core qualities of religious systems, to paraphrase Clifford Geertz. Indeed, these days coming up with a value proposition seems more about integrating into a liberal economy, what can you sell than about finding oneself, as an individual or an organisation.  

“Communication. Respect. Integrity. Excellence.”  At first glance, this reads like a reasonable list of values. Concise and clear, and also the values listed in Enron’s 2000 annual report. Reflecting on historical events, this value list sounds remarkably hollow. A value list demands vigilance, and time.

The exercise of making the implicit IMC values explicit was kicked off at a Thursday morning breakfast meeting in June 2019, guided by Christine Parsons and Savhannah Schulz. We split into small groups and after some lively discussions, each group generated a set of key concepts.  These key concepts were then subjected to the human mind powered principal component analysis known as ‘collective arranging of Post-Its on a whiteboard’.

Rather than leave this analysis as a disordered, sticky mess, Savhannah transposed these ideas into a visually-striking chart. This ‘first draft’ chart, encompassing familiar symbols of the IMC like the LEGO duck, has now found its home on the whiteboard outside our meeting room. We refer to this as a ‘first draft’ because the chart’s pieces and connectors are moveable, to encourage re-arrangements, refinements and additions. We hope to continue the discussion of values over the coming months, and how these values will play out in our projects and our interactions with one another and the wider university community.  

Are brains ambitious or playful? What’s the relation between individuality, diversity and equality? Where does integrity fit into the picture? Explore, co-construct, reflect and share; and in the process you are likely to be enacting, surprise, IMC core values…

Illustration by Savhannah Schulz

However, these are not set in ink, and at the whiteboard in the IMC sofa corner, you can rearrange your own value map by creating and removing concepts and connectors. Here are some snapshots from the past weeks:

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4 (post July holiday)