It's time to reinvent management. You can help.

What are the core values of the MIX?

by Chris Grams on December 21, 2010


chris-grams's picture

What are the core values of the MIX?

Reflecting on 2010, one of the things I am particularly thankful for is the opportunity to get involved with the amazing folks in the MIX community. I made my first contribution in July and starting blogging regularly on the site in November as a Moonshot Guide focusing on the Enable Communities of Passion moonshot.

As I started thinking about the community of passion we are building right here at the MIX, I thought I’d end 2010 with a few thoughts on how we might ensure we continue to build a healthy, thriving community around this site in 2011.

In my experience, the best communities usually share three key characteristics:

1. A core mission understood by all members
2. A deeply held set of values that guides members’ interactions within the community
3. An architecture of participation that allows members to easily communicate, collaborate, create, and grow together

Looking at these three characteristics, it is clear that the MIX has #1 nailed. I’d be surprised if there was anyone contributing to the MIX who didn’t deeply believe in the need to reinvent management (after all, if you are OK with the management status quo, you have plenty of other places you can go to experience it instead).

I’d also argue that, for a program launched less than a year ago, the MIX has a pretty impressive architecture of participation. While I’m sure all of us could suggest plenty of new website features, programatic improvements, and other neat stuff we could add to make the MIX better and more functional for contributors, the fact is that people are contributing and a robust community is emerging (a side note: if you have ideas for improving the MIX, you can always suggest them here).

But the second characteristic, a deeply held set of values, is less clear for me. I’m a big fan of Jim Collins and Jerry Porras’s thinking about core values (check out their book Built to Last, chapters 3 and 11 in particular to learn more). Collins and Porras would say that true organizational values aren’t decided by executive fiat, but instead emerge from within, lived by those with the closest, deepest connection to the underlying culture. True values are discovered rather than created.

My view? The values of the MIX community are still emerging. But there's no better time for us to start discovering them.

Take this hack, jointly posted in October by two key MIX contributors Dan Oestreich and Annie McQuade, as a starting point. It’s kind of a “meta-hack” in that it is an attempt to start a discussion about what I might characterize as community values.

Dan and Annie express concern about what they view as a trend toward debating, defending, and challenging on the MIX instead of encouraging collaboration and trust.  In their words:

“This hack is an open invitation to share your ideas on how to now move beyond our “contest culture” to one of greater mutual support, partnership, joint action and meaningful exploration. This is an invitation to trust.”

I share their concerns. I’m a believer in and practitioner of what is labelled by many people as design thinking. I’d argue that what we are doing on the MIX right now is what many design thinking proponents call ideation (fancy term) or brainstorming (simple term). During ideation, the goal is to generate as many ideas as possible but--this is important-- not to judge or debate ideas. Don’t like someone else’s idea? Rather than criticize or point out its flaws, suggest another idea you think is better.

Design thinkers live by Linus Pauling’s famous quote, “The best way to a good idea is to have lots of ideas.”

My corollary? The best way to prevent good ideas is to criticize the ideas of others.

Why? Because people become hesitant to share their ideas when they fear criticism or ridicule. They’ll wait to share until they think the ideas are bulletproof... and that time may never come.

So if we are really trying to build something here on the MIX, I believe it’d make sense for our community to embrace the spirit of building in our interactions on the site. Maybe I’m suggesting the spirit of “building” as an core community value I could see emerging out of our MIX community.

I’d be interested in your thoughts. Do you think this value resonates with our mission? I also like Annie and Dan's idea that trust could be a core value. And there are certainly plenty of ideas to consider in The MIX Manifesto and on the What is the MIX? page.

I'm sure there are other potential core values you have seen emerge during this first year. Perhaps as we end our first year as contributors, it marks a good time to start a conversation:

What are the core values of the MIX?

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ellen-weber's picture

This community holds online opportunities, in many ways to build a new form of leadership. Many parallels exist here – to organizational development in business. That’s why it’s critical to support people and encourage ideas more. Even those better than our own.

Let’s be careful not to anonymously rate others’ ideas down – in ways that would appear to advantage personal ratings.  What about a shift to making comments to engage others about their ideas before we rate? Or let’s evaluate in a very different way, that helps people to build on their initial ideas. There’s a critical breakthrough inside neuro-discoveries to support a new approach. The very brain chemicals that spark innovation, are also destroyed by finding anonymous ratings that pull down work without engagement of suggested ideas to improve it.

One can design policies that respect people, but unless tone is respectful , the body language of policy can hold back entire communities. It’s time to lead differently, by engaging people who disagree with respect, and by learning from ideas that differ. Let’s support life-changing leadership where we embrace innovation together, without diminishing other people for personal gain.  Let’s support and collaborate with those whose ideas race ahead, for the sake of a finer future together.

When people become capital, they rewire their brain’s circuitry for more wins across differences. Entire organizations win when talented people from all corners of life fuel innovation for a finer future. It won’t be organizations who continue to wrap goals around more money or personal power, as much as those who value, develop and reward humans as capital.

Diversity rocks to a new tune, where the value of humans – along with their unique talents, take center stage. To celebrate people as an asset – rather than tolerate differences as deficit, is to set a new stage for human capital with high-performance minds. With people as key assets innovation reshapes an organizations. In contrast, when humans get broken without support or when times get too tough, an organizational culture begins to build more around profit – and both tend to plummet.

What do you think of altering the anonymous rating system for the sake of genuine growth and collaboration that wins for this entire community?

bill-nobles's picture

Chris, when I decided to revisit MIX after a 6 month absence and disappointing experiences last spring an email from MIX staff recommended your posting.  A scan of your comments and responses by others suggests the quality of MIX dialogue has improved substantially.  Also I like your three characteristics of effective communities, and your suggestion to discover and document MIX shared values.  My earlier experiences suggest one value to consider—“comments should focus on community interests rather than personal priorities.”  Several posters seemed more interested in advertising their services or personal ideas than progressing the MIX discussion. 

I reacted “yes, but” to your statement that MIX has nailed its core mission.  While I agree that most participants believe in the need to reinvent management, I worry that Gary’s moonshot exercise has backfired.  Most moonshot issues (20 by my count) rehash hierarchical control limitations that have been discussed for decades, so encouraging each new story/hack to address a moonshot tends to draw attention to old ideas rather than sparking new thinking. 

Our work suggested an alternative moonshot that can impact multiple issues—finding a replacement for management by hierarchical control!  I posted a story—”Vision-led Freedom, the key to reigniting management innovation,” which introduces a replacement we found by asking whether management has any fundamental reason to hierarchically control employees?  Why can’t employees function with full responsibility, full authority, and full accountability—i.e. with full freedom?  I encourage MIX participants to consider this additional moonshot and to explore for other ideas to replace hierarchical control.

Thanks for your thoughtful posting, Bill Nobles

mike-richardson's picture

Hello Chris - I am relieved to see this dialog here as my early experience of the MIX has also been mixed, and yet I sense such huge potential. 

Before weighing in on this string of comments, I was waiting to finish my latest posting (The Power of a Peer Group: How come something so proven is not more pervasive, and what are we willing to do about it?: as i think it relates.  I resonate very strongly with your three key characteristics for our virtual peer community of the MIX as they parallel my experience with the kinds of face-to-face peer groups I chair (of A-type personality CEOs!), explaining the difference between low performing peer groups and high performing peer groups.

In particular, I find it is the triangulation of these three characteristics and how they interact with each other to create alignment, attunement and resonance not dissonance.  One creates music.  the other creates noise.  I have found the MIX to be quite a noisy place so far.  I have experienced music too and would love us to find ways to turn up the volume on that.

For me, one of the most crucial interactions between the three key characteristics is captured by the systems thinking saying that we all know and love:  "structure influences behavior".  I believe some small structural adjustments could influence some large behavioral adjustments, which I am sure have occurred to others, but here goes anyhow - the top 3 for me are:

1.  Change the default view from by "ranking" to by "date" - currently when I visit a tab I see submissions by "ranking" which means I have to make an extra click on "date" to see the latest submissions which makes them relatively invisible and, I suggest, creating an invisibility anxiety!  So we get some behaviors of competition for visibility.  This would change the relative visibility of latest submissions giving them some time in the sun.

2.  Connect comments and rankings (you can't rank without commenting)/make rankings visible and attributable (your can't rank invisibly)

3.  Structure the "comments" field around some key questions to shape the comments - perhaps something like:  a.  Clarifying questions;  b.  Recommendations for build;  c.  Other input

Apologies if i am stating the obvious!  I look forward to evolving more thoughts as part of this dialog.  In Vistage we talk about helping CEOs work "in" and work "on" their business all at the same time.  And I am happy to see the same applies here at the MIX.  Count me in.  Best.

deborah-mills-scofield's picture

Finally getting a chance to put down some thoughts – between the holidays and lovely sips of Runa Tea (thanks for the mention again Chris – these kids are so wonderful – I’m so blessed to be mentoring them tho, as well it should be, they also mentor me!).  I have enjoyed the MIX and hope to participate more in 2011. 

In thinking about the MIX’s values, I assessed my own purpose for joining the MIX.  I wanted to join a ‘living lab’ of people doing real-time experiments and prototypes in ‘management’, learn from their successes, failures, reasons why/why not, etc. so I could learn/apply and make different mistakes which I could add back into the MIX.   My purpose was learning (knowledge & wisdom) from people (not reports) who were doing (not theorizing) and thereby develop longer-term relationships (friendships?) with these people.  Let me use twitter as a metaphor.

Twitter has become invaluable to me…as a news source (e.g., NYT, WSJ, HBR, Guardian, FT, SMCP, etc.) but moreso as an ‘insight’ source from people I follow, many of whom have become friends – real friends.  How did this happen? I started by following someone, reading their tweets & blogs, posting comments, DM’g them on twitter, even emailing because, from their ‘content’ I had Respect for them, which develops into Trust as we connect/communicate. I have many specific instances of where Respect increases into Trust which turns into real Friendship.

Putting aside the 140 character issue, I hope the MIX can become a community where people share with each other because they respect each other and therefore trust each other.  This takes time; we know it doesn’t happen overnight.  And (big And) – while we all want to innovate ‘management’ – the ‘old’ way is deeply ingrained.  The ‘old’ way is a deep-seated and while we almost always revert back to what we know when scared or insecure, we still do even when not scared or insecure – it’s a hard habit to break. 

So, I think the values will emerge and coalesce – some being explicitly drawn out, some perhaps implicitly.  It takes commitment, open-mindedness, and as you all have said, suspending judgement (ah! Something we humans are so good at – not!).  We need to remember we’re innovating as we go – this is a work in progress, forever - warrenting prudence, courage and trust.  Ellen’s point on evidence is right on (as usual J ) - it’s important to measure how the values are being lived – for leading indicators of where change may be needed and assurance that we truly adhere to the values.

The other key part, as Ellen also mentions, is getting people involved - in a world where we are all so time-constrained.  Perhaps one way, simplistic, is just to ask - are there ways we can make it easier That's why this takes commitment.  While the content is a draw - it will be the people that draw each other in - and perhaps we just need to spread the word a bit more.   In a call with Polly & Gary on 12/16, we discussed getting the 'word' out about the MIX  - and that's it is a cool place to be...(oh yeah, in addition to all the other stuff!!!)

does this make sense?


dan-oestreich's picture
Hi Chris
Thanks for finding and highlighting the hack that Annie McQuade and I put up.  It's so great to find people at MIX who do share a deeply felt common interest in the reinvention of management -- really the reinvention of the workplace.  This can be an incredible forum to help design a new way forward. Even more importantly it can be a place to live that way forward, not just talk about it.   I met both Annie McQuade and Ellen Weber here and because I did I feel I won the greatest prize -- connecting not only with stellar minds but also people with great hearts; people who naturally bring their best to every enterprise in which they participate; people who think powerfully but also know how to love.  So, like you, I feel the seeds are here for something really wonderful.  
I cannot speak for others, but for me the experience at MIX has, well, been mixed.  The need for deeper leader engagement that Ellen mentions seems clear to me and I still wonder whether contests are the right (or should be the primary) vehicle for achieving the MIX mission -- there is a whole paradigm here that is reinforced by the structure and culture of contests.  I struggle with the ambiguity and silence around criteria for success, the treatment of "winners" and "losers," and around the owners of MIX.  These things, from my own work as a practitioner studying fear in the workplace, do not bode well for the ultimate success of community building. They do not necessarily lead to the rise of new leadership, or leadership from within, and there is no guarantee that the values to be discovered will be more than a replica of the past disguised in more contemporary forms.  Those are the dark possibilities and they are worth stating and talking through, lest they become "undiscussable," embedded shadow components of MIX.  It is worth talking about and addressing discrepancies with the apparent values of MIX and those stated in the MIX manifesto.  If the community or the leaders are not strong enough or engaged enough for that conversation we are still living out the past.  That's the way the bulk of American corporations still operate.  Stated values and no stomach for handling the perceived discrepancies.
What changes these dynamics is one fundamental thing, to me, and that is reaching out, person to person. This reaching out -- call it trusting in the face of trust's absence -- changes the game entirely.  It makes contests either superfluous or more fun; a party game where the object is joy and actual learning, not a competitive game aimed at recognition and reputation as being more or less than others.   I don't know that reaching out is really a value so much as a practice that drives values.  It seems to me to be the ultimate management taboo and yet what could actually be more powerful?  I think I am noticing an underlying bias at MIX toward systems thinking, depersonalized ideas, interpersonal distance, and the commoditization of people, even as people complain via their hacks and barriers about old style management practices.  The hope is that there is mutiny -- a positive mutiny -- a revolution here toward embracing what people have that is good.  In this sense, the "building" that you mention would seem to me to be a very human art,  not just an intellectual one, not just a thinking process, but a connecting, real, living process of being in touch with one another. Somehow, still, we are in ideas without the understanding that the ideas are also within people's hearts, not just their heads. And that to me won't be released so easily.  Release comes with creating psychological safety with one another, but it also comes with choice, risk-taking, and intentionality.  What kind of community do we want to build. What will work for us? What will create real meaning?   In this sense I want to build on your thought that values are discovered.  I think that's right and what the discovery is about is not only something between us but something inside us that resonates, that's powerful, that draws us forward in the way that Martin Luther King, Jr's speech drew many forward to take the risks necessary to create real social breakthrough.  Well, to me, the breakthroughs we are seeking in the workplace are not going to be any easier than those.  You can shoot messengers of the future workplace through criticism of their ideas, but you shoot the messengers even more effectively through simple silence and lack of human engagement. Without welcome, without honoring, without a balance of truth and care in newly forming relationships, without the human exchange, what in fact have we got? A contest.
So, if I have one thing really to share here it's only this thought that MIX will become to the extent that a core practice is reaching out to connect as people, really connect with one another, noticing the effects and impacts on people as individuals of what we do and say here, not just brainstorming a few more ideas through a process of competing for credibility. That to me is the dead world of the past -- comparing brains rather than forming something that is alive and passionate among many brains and a multitude of hearts.
To me, through this post, you are exemplifying the persistent and open leadership needed.  I think a signal of how much actual underlying energy there is for this work will be in how many voices show up for this conversation.  Even if it's only a few, that can be enough to get started. Great work, Chris, and thanks again for noticing and for initiating this discussion.
chris-grams's picture

Hi Dan--

I'm honored to have you weigh in on this thread, since it was your original post that inspired me to initiate this discussion. There's so much that I find compelling about the points you make. First off, I'd like to highlight this line of yours:

"I think I am noticing an underlying bias at MIX toward systems thinking, depersonalized ideas, interpersonal distance, and the commoditization of people, even as people complain via their hacks and barriers about old style management practices."

I think with this you've hit the nail on the head. Is there a potential *aspirational* value for the MIX in here? Let me build on your thought:

Is the MIX about ideas? Or is it about *people* with ideas?

Or even better, a *community* of people with ideas.

If the MIX is simply about the ideas, I think your assessment reflects a dire future for the MIX. Do we really want it to be "the Wikipedia of the future of management", where ideas are commodities, and the people that come up with them are nameless drones carrying out a massive crowdsourcing project?

I sure hope not. One of the things I hoped to accomplish when I started blogging here was to celebrate the great people of the MIX, not just the ideas. In my MIX posts, I have a goal to try to highlight not an *idea* I find compelling, but instead a *person* who's ideas I love as often as I can.

For example, this post is a celebration of both Deborah and her friends at Runa that she wrote about:

This one is about Aaron Anderson, who's ideas I really dig:

And the post we are commenting on here was in many ways a celebration of, well, you and your ideas:)

I'd love to see the MIX become a meritocracy, where those who, over time, continually bring the best ideas and hard work to the community become its leaders. We could do much more to make this come true!

I also agree with you that I'd love to reduce the "interpersonal distance" of the MIX. I think this deserves a discussion all its own. Less podium/audience, more intimate conversation. Less monologue, more dialog. Some of the things that would help are technical/functional-- what I'd call the architecture of participation-- and some are cultural, which is where the values come in. Ross Smith might even be able to share some ideas with us on how to make our time on the MIX more fun, which might reduce the competition mentality and increase the love!

Let me also mention that the great folks behind the MIX are actively thinking about some of these same issues-- like many of us, they have incredibly full plates that hinder their ability to communicate as often and as transparently as they'd probably like to regarding their thoughts and progress. I'm still amazed at how they've be able to pull off as much as they have this year with such a small dedicated team.

Which is why, as guy with a deep background in the open source way, I love to see conversations like these as ways to help a community of passion tackle issues that those running the show couldn't possibly have the cycles to solve alone.

I'm really glad to see this conversation happening, and, like you, eager to see how many people weigh in.

dan-oestreich's picture
Great, Chris, let's keep the dialogue going. Thanks for the links.  Another potential great example of a passionate community is, of course, this one from David Zinger. 
chris-grams's picture

Wow, Ellen! As always, you've provided a thoughtful, intelligent response, and a great beginning to the discussion. Thank you!

When working on projects to uncover the values of a community or organization, I always tend to look first for clues from the people who embody the real and aspirational values of the group-- you certainly are one of those people on the MIX.

I love your idea that we should start to collect evidence that possible community values are alive and well on the MIX. I'll take this to heart, and highlight in future blog posts examples of contributions I see that support some of the ideas we've already raised.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear some more ideas and examples from you and others that might help me do that even better... what are some of the potential community values that you see emerging on the MIX? I'm interested in hearing about both real values (i.e. examples of things you are already seeing in action today) and aspirational values (things that we believe in, but may take additional steering to really begin to *live* in our community interactions).

Thanks in advance for your thoughts, everyone!

ellen-weber's picture

With deep appreciation:

Thanks Chris, you are looking here at the greater good of MIX – which is the only way an innovation can grow in a wider sense. I deeply resonate with your enabling communities of passion – and will be mindful of that core when we start teaching my newly designed MBA Leadership course in Jan (Lead Innovation with the Brain in Mind) and as we complete the related MBA leadership text.

Since I work with brainpowered tools that remap human brains for the greater good, I like to suggest evidence based realities for several of your points. Others may have far better ideas – but I’d like to suggest a few possibilities to start the discourse rolling toward evidence.

Evidence of Innovation Leadership that Differs from Traditional Leadership

1. To your architecture of participation I agree with you - the MIX community rocks! Let’s look for and develop ways to see evidence in all practices. One way to keep all MIX leaders alive and growing collaboratively, for instance, is to exchange ideas more at leader sites such as blogs by chosen leaders. Otherwise it appears top leaders ask questions in blogs – without evidence of response to innovation leaders here at the MIX, who engage their novel ideas. To ask questions in blogs and invite participation is to enhance growth as authors  exchange insights with those who comment. When all MIX leaders engage others for the greater good – we prevent the tiered levels of leadership that stops growth in the MIX community. For MIX blog authors too busy to respond to comments they receive – why not appoint a trusted leader to engage commenters in their name – with full disclosure?

2. To your community trait called deeply held set of values that guides members’ interactions within the community, I’d like to see further engagement on these specific values, now that we are rolling. If that were facilitated – I’d add that we ensure we address the question: How can we capitalize on brainpower differences between men and women to raise the leadership IQ of our sinking world? From a brain perspective, I identified 25 practical ways to ensure we capitalize more on both genders with visible evidences that benefit all MIX leaders. Could stronger evidence of equitability improve leadership balance in business settings, here, and beyond?  What an opportunity we have to fix what’s broken in current models which lack access opportunities to many innovative leaders. I simply offer a few linchpins possibilities to discuss together as we continue to set new standards, open new opportunities, and create the changes that lead innovation into wider reaches. An equal gender representation of judges for MBA winners would likely give a more equal balance of winners, for instance - since neuro research shows folks favor those that look most like themselves 100% of the time.

How could we support and encourage the wider MIX leadership even more?

While it’s keen to gather wonderful new and dynamic leaders – it’s also keen to support and encourage those who started and participated with great expectations – some of whom  have fallen away.

I agree with and thank you for your view here. You said it so well,  The values of the MIX community are still emerging. But there's no better time for us to start discovering them.

I too would value the opportunity to take this hack, jointly posted in October by two key MIX contributors Dan Oestreich and Annie McQuade, as a starting point to help us characterize evidence based community values. Imagine the way we’d inspire leadership for an innovation age, if we risked doing it different here, so that all offerings found genuine value.

With Dan and Annie, several others too express concern about what they view as a trend toward debating, defending, and challenging on the MIX instead of encouraging collaboration and trust.  Along with you and others, I share their concerns, and suspect we can cultivate a way to encourage people to target improvements together, rather than critique people for what we deem “mistakes” in their thinking.

A modest proposal from an MBA Innovation Leadership Course I Designed Collaboratively:

To other amazing offerings already here,  I’d like to offer a Mita Brainpowered  5-point value premise that will underlie an exciting new leadership approach to encourage innovation leaders in a January MBA course. While this innovation model is proven at PhD levels to get higher motivation and achievement, it also allows for the evidence based discovery you advocate.

Thanks for sparking here, core values that will improve leadership for the greater good of all, Chris!  I look forward to others’ thoughts, and agree with Annie and Dan's idea that trust could be a core value. I’ve simply suggested specific practices here at the MIX to show evidence of growth alive and well in how we support innovation practices – which means how we encourage and help develop every participant in this dynamic site.

A Reflective Challenge:

Added to your question: What are the core values of the MIX?, I’d like to see added … and what specific evidences show these alive and well? That would remind us to target improvements together, so that we discover consistently finer ways to keep this dynamic community advancing in 2011 - just as you and others here suggested. 

Thanks for the leadership, courage and risk it takes to suggest new pathways forward, Chris. You model the innovative improvement that launched this site and the innovative leadership we all crave in any workplace!