How to Square Value (Part 1)

Values Squared. © 2014 Jens R. Woinowski, leanself.org

Do you have conflicting values? Did you identify some personal weaknesses you want to overcome? Do you have a conflict with somebody you want to resolve which is rooted in differing values?

There is help coming from a tool which is not part of the standard set of Lean tools.[1] This tool is called “Values and Development Square” It has been invented by Paul Helwig and refined by Friedemann Schulz von Thun. A German description of that concept can be found in Wikipedia. It is well-known in the German personal coaching scene but seems to be barely unknown beyond that.

As you can see in the image, we use a simple square with four quadrants. The two top quadrants contain two opposing values; the two lower ones contain their exaggerated and negatively loaded counterparts. For every value and its exaggeration you find a headline (title) and some details, in our example in the form of character-traits or sub-ordinate values.

Before I discuss how to use the contents of this square, here is how to create it:

  1. Start with any quadrant and enter in a value. This could be a positive value you want to improve upon (top quadrants) or an exaggerated, negative value that you see as a problem or personal weakness (bottom row). In our example that could be “idealism” if you see yourself as an idealist and want to understand other people who are not.
  2. Add some details to that quadrant. That should be a short list of short bullet points that describe the value (or an exaggeration).
  3. Coming from that quadrant, find the exact opposite that belongs on the quadrant diagonally opposed. In our example and starting with “idealism” that would be “opportunism.” If you can directly do it from the headlines, go on. If that is too difficult you could start be negating the items on the bullet list.
  4. If you found a headline for the second quadrant, fill in the details as bullet points. If you started with the bullet list, find a good headline.
  5. In the next step, move vertically or horizontally from the results of steps 3. And 4. Going vertical is the direction I suppose. In our example that would be “diplomacy,” which is a positive value. Describe that value with a headline and details. You get your inspiration from the other two quadrants you already filled. Coming from an exaggeration to a positive value you want to negate the exaggerated details to something positive that is still similar. Coming from a positive value to an exaggeration, look out for more negative attributes.
  6. Fill in the last quadrant, which is diagonal from the result of step 5. Besides that, the approach is exactly like in steps 3. to 5.
  7. Tune your result until you think it is well-balanced. Trust your intuition for this tuning. If you want, you can even use one of the detailed bullet points as new headline of a quadrant. In that case it may be necessary to adapt all other quadrants. Take your time.

You can use such balanced view on values for (at least) three purposes:

  1. Understanding a conflict of values between people, with the goal to find a way out of it, and finding direction.
  2. Finding ways to develop yourself, without shedding all your values but with a perspective towards more opportunities beyond them.
  3. Understand value trade-off to make a more informed decision about your priorities.

In the next post on Friday we will have a closer look at this.

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