We love to smirk at company values and culture statements, don't we? They all tend to say the same things: "our company values its employees!" or "trust, collaboration, and integrity are our core values!"

We also know that often the company values are just wishful thinking from the employer's side: the reality is something completely different.

I fully admit my cynicism towards company values. The idea of a company refusing to write down their values in order to spare us from the never-ending flow of corporate bullshit gets me excited. Unapologizing honesty and provocation can be thrilling.

But then there is the marketing agency Ogilvy & Mather and their eight organizational virtues. These are values that make me listen, not yawn. Ogilvy & Mather describe creative work in a way that communicates insight: it's clear that they know how the world tries to suppress creativity and what it's actually like to try to grow as a creative community. Here's an article about the virtues. Go ahead and read it – it's short and concise.

These are the three things that Ogilvy & Mather' get right with their company values. Quotes are from the company's book "The Eternal Pursuit of Unhappiness."

1. They aspire

Helen Keller, the deaf and blind activist, was asked by a journalist what she thought would be worse than being born blind. She replied without missing a beat, ‘to have sight and no vision.’

One of Ogilvy & Mather's virtues is idealism, and this quote from Helen Keller sets the bar for expected idealism pretty high. However, often when you set the bar higher, you start to see the average going up also.

2. They make a stand

We waste our beautiful mind by leaning lopsidedly on logic.

To say that we solve problems "through intuitive leaps" instead of interpreting the data is bold. Not everyone is going to agree with your process.

3. They support

If the client kills your day, do him a better one.

Few culture statements tell you what is expected from you when things don't go according to plan. Few culture statements don't even seem to understand what it's actually like to do the work at your company.


Do you get excited about the values of your company? Are the values fun to talk about? Or does it even matter what they are?