The Value of Values

As we age, we repel or adopt other values, which continue to morph us into ever changing individuals; values form a moral DNA.

“It (the Mayo Clinic Brand) conveys our name, our position and our values as well as our unique status in a global marketplace.”  – John Noseworthy, M.D., on the Mayo Clinic Brand, June 20, 2011

Currently at the Center For Innovation (CFI) I am involved in the research and exploration of palliative care  and dialysis delivery, this work has led me into familiar territory in the obscure word of “Value.” Familiar because it was a topic of focus during graduate school, obscure because after a year of research it continues to be a hard to define topic.

In project meetings there is an over-arching theme of “understanding the patient’s values.” But do we know the meaning of the word value? Do we know how they are created? Are we referring to Universal values or Instrumental values? Better yet, do patients know what their values are? A Mayo Intranet search of “Values” yielded 19,000 hits, a Google search yielded 657 million hits.

In my research I defined Value as a personal representation of measurement from which we add and subtract worth to define direction. In its simplest form it could be described as a point of preference that resides between two extremes, somewhere in the full spectrum of positive and negative, or good and bad for example. The number of value layers, and the points that define them create the identity of an individual or a society.

Values may be classified by sociological, psychological, and economical means. Values can be a personal acceptance of moral and ethical elements existent in our social surrounding (i.e.: government, workplace, family, etc.) A reflecting set of values is therefore a sign of trust between two entities; in other words, if we share a set of values then we can predict one another’s behavior and thus feel safe and know what to expect.

Applied in the context of business, value can present a profitable advantage. The explicit value of a product for example may spark strong emotions in a consumer; a concept often exercised by design and marketing departments worldwide.

My focus is on the investigation of social values and their relationship to design. This entailed first a complete understanding of my personal values, and then the implementation of these "value-based components" into my design principles. This shift created a design practice focused on the fulfillment of human needs over the manufacture of wants.

“It's the root of who we are and what we do. Every one of them applies to every one of us.”  - John Noseworthy, M.D., CEO, Mayo Clinic, commenting on Mayo’s Values Statement, April 6, 2011

While I personally agree with Dr. Noseworthy’s statement, I do so because Mayo’s values align with my values.

Moving forward I will continue to explore value in design and its relation to the human story. I feel we are launching a new era that demands human emotion in our products and the environments that surround us.

Gunther Chanange is a Summer Design Research Co-Op and a recent graduate from the Rhodes Island School of Design (RISD)  Master Industrial Design Program. Gunther relies on discovery, engagement and social interactions to find new opportunities in everyday environments. His focus is on human-centered design, inspired by people and their bond to a shared set of principles.