Clients are most often curious about values shifts as they seek new understanding about their current or new customers or clients and more innovative ways to develop offerings for them, whether its new products, services, or experiences. In some recent project work, an issue came up that made me think that it may be helpful to think of a couple different ways that values are invoked:
- Implicit: sub-conscious preferences show up in routine decisions, e.g., “I choose a Brand X, product because I read this story in the news once that they were good corporate citizens”
- Explicit: making a decision with long-term implications, e.g., “from now on, I am only going to drink organic fair trade coffee
As an organization, being aware of your customer’s values preferences might help you position your offerings in a helpful way. You might refer to “Nudge” for ideas along these lines.
But for the big innovation opportunities, we’re looking for the explicit. A question that often comes up during or after the talk on values is what about “people not acting on their values?” People, of course, do not always walk their talk. I agree, and point out that while I would put sustainability as a core value for me and buy green power and the like, I also drive a V8 sports car. Yes, the contradictions are there. We are not perfect in acting upon our values.
It is these contradictions are the wellsprings of innovation. People want to act on their values, but there is something in the way – something that makes it challenging to act on that value. They’re aware of the contradiction, and probably feel a slight pang of guilt about, but life marches on. Values research indicated that for many years before sustainability hit the mainstream, people were indicated shifts in values toward environmentalism. But they were not acting on them, at least in ways that business people prefer, that is, paying more for green products. Gee, thanks for that dilemma! “If I want to act on my values, it will cost me. “ I’m not sure if this bold statement is justified, but perhaps something like, “if your innovation offering involves asking consumers to pay more for something they are already doing, you’re in trouble!”
I think as long as innovators were stuck in the “they won’t pay more” mindset, little useful innovation could occur. Admittedly green products were more expensive to produce. So, the innovation comes in thing about what else could we do? What other outlets might there be for people to act on their green-ness?
One simple tool I have been using in these cases is the Integral 2×2 matrix (if interested, see this Evolution of Integral Futures). It suggests that to really understanding an issue, we must look at it holistically, starting with individual values, then behavior, and looking at the cultural views and finally the support systems or infrastructure. A lot of the contradictions come from a lack of cultural and/or infrastructure support. As innovators, we might be cautious of approaching an innovation solution that lacks cultural support (it means we’ll be dealing with the fringe, not the mainstream). But in cases, where the problem is “systems support or infrastructure,” we ring the bell and shout hurray! That’s the fit. How do we build the support systems and infrastructure that help people align their behavior and values and for which there is enough cultural support to suggest it’s not just a fringe thing?
In the innovation space, we want to find “decisions” where values are invoked, and people are choosing to act against them, because something is getting in the way, and that something in the way involves systems or infrastructures that we can “fix.” Andy Hines