John Ellison

Day 3: Mind Mapping Clearleft's #Values

3 min read


I arrived to Clearleft early on the morning of my third day to sit down and write about the past two days at Clearleft. Just as I was wrapping up my last post, James Box—the User Experience Director at Clearleft—introduced me to Ellen de Vries and asked if I would take a look at the Clearleft values they had been working on.

James saw that my perspective as an outsider would be useful to compare the values that Clearleft presented on the web and the values that Clearleft lived in the office. Having only been in the office for two days, he was hopeful that I could provide a fresh perspective to the continuity of their values and point out any incongruous threads.

I was handed a printed slide deck and we set an afternoon slot to chat about the values. They asked if I would provide evidence for or against any of the values that were written.

My Process

Rather than scribbling notes on a single slide and restricting my perspective to one value at a time, I decided to pull out one of the movable white boards at the office and make a mind map. I find mind maps particularly useful when looking at how individual elements work together to make up a larger whole. Mind maps are super easy to make, this was the book that got me started on it: Mind Maps: Quicker Notes, Better Memory, and Improved Learning 3.0.

trying to understand the Clearleft values

I created a small legend in the upper right to portray the different content types within the mind map and allocated one shape per content type. These color-and-shape coded diagrams make digesting large amounts of information relatively easy.

As I wrote each value on the board I almost immediately thought of a very specific quote that was said to me in my first two days at Clearleft. Much of the values and vision had been communicated to my by Andy Budd in our conversations before I was hired for the three-month work placement.

Realizing The Importance of Value

This helped me realize the importance of casting value and vision as an executive. The CEO role wasn't just about making great relationships with clients and delivering top-notch results, it was also about instilling vision and cultivating values of a culture.

In our conversation at the eCommerce Round Table on Day 2, I realized that this issue of crafting culture was the predominant problem across all the companies that we spoke with. Every manifested issue seemed to stem from culture and values.

Realizing The Value of Clearleft

One-by-one, I went through each value and immediately found explicit examples of evidence of this value being held and lived in the office here at Clearleft. I then realized what a rare gem this place was.

I've worked with dozens of different companies and individuals across the years and never once have I witnessed a place that was so intimately familiar with their identity, their purpose and their values.

I think much of Clearleft's success can be attributed to these cultural values that it has cultivated since its inception and evolved through the growth of its team. The mindset of hiring smart people who are passionate about what they do—putting them into small teams and giving them great responsibility—supporting them however they need—and expecting excellence... this seems like a powerful combination that could help create immense change in other industries and contexts as well.