Another year, another politician and our blessed leader (for now) Theresa May is waxing lyrical about British values... again. Will they never learn?! Have you ever stopped to wonder what exactly 'they' - our political class - mean by any of their 'values’ claims? Or why there’s this intrinsic belief that these 'home grown British values' make us superior to others? It's as if they’re all saying "If only more people would follow a life according to British values, the world would be a better place!"
I witness our politicians of every ilk waxing lyrical on values and scratch my bald pate, realizing that often these 'values' they’re talking about aren't even values at all. Even if they are, they have little to do with the values that I, or any other human for that matter live by. Indeed, at One Minute to Midnight we feel that the political class the world over and across the spectrum are, at best, values-ignorant, and at worst, values <em>abusers</em>.
Let's take a single example. Ofsted defines British values as democracy; the rule of law and a sense of individual liberty defined as 'mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith'
The last time I looked at most of these terms or phrases, it was obvious that they were definitely not values. Rather, they’re complex socio-cultural constructions and examples of policy statement, rather than something people lead their lives by. Even if we’re being kind, I’m not sure many British people wake up each morning and think ‘I must be democratic’ or ‘practice my individual liberty today’.
Let's Get Values Right?
At One Minute to Midnight we’ve dedicated a lot of time, research, and thought to the meaning of Human Values and it’s clear to us that our political class have a total misunderstanding of what a Value is and what role it plays in people’s lives. In addition, it seems to us that our politicians confuse the Values of the Country with the people that live here. That’s a huge error, as currently, the British people do not share the Values of an abstract or nationalistic ‘Britain’ from the Victorian era. How do we know all of this? Well, One Minute to Midnight has conducted a study into the Values of the British people and what they perceive to be the values of Britain. How did we do this? Let's wind back to the beginning...
To understand Values, we have to define what we mean by a Value. Here's our starting point:
'Human Values are the principles, standards, and convictions that humans adopt as their guidelines to daily activities. They are the energies that guide us, that shape our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours'
We find this simple definition of Human Values immensely useful because it provides a framework to explain why people go about living their lives. It also gives us key pointers on how we interact with the world around us and form relationships with others. Crucially, we can begin to realise how and why humans connect with brands, services, and products across a Values landscape.
Values are the guiding forces in life. A full and deep understanding of Human Values is vital if we want to appreciate motivations and drive intelligently, sensitively, and with real actionable purpose. This is why Values are so important. However, they can and should be explored with due care and consideration. People need a license to talk Values, or at least a model to provide some coherence to what they’re talking about.
What we need is a good Values Model... and as if by magic, One Minute to Midnight have one!
We use a globally renowned Human Values model developed through research with over 65,000 people across many countries. Compare that to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which is based on three or four dozen people from an elite college in the US! Maybe that need state model that's defining your organization's strategy needs a look... D’oh! The socio-psychological model we use contains 10 Values ranging from Power to Security, Self-Direction (Creativity) to Benevolence. They’re present in populations the world over to varying degrees and with nuance, but deep down these Value energies exist everywhere, i.e. they are not Western-centric.
Ok, enough of the science, let’s get back to the story.
Britain and the Britishers: A Cognitive Dissonance
Using this definition and model, we conducted a study into the Values of the British people and for Britain the country. And this is where it gets really interesting: there’s a total mismatch between the people and the country on a Values level. Of course, there are differences in Values between individuals and groups of people, but on the whole, the British people share many of the same Values. We are consistently driven by Universalism (to treat people fairly and equally) and have a strong predisposition for kindness. We want to lead a relatively safe and secure life - all spiced up with a little fun and pleasure!
Now, what about Britain the country? Well, the Values associated with Britain are almost polar opposites to the British people. British people feel the country is driven by the Values of Power, Tradition, and Conformity. The only Value actually shared by Britain the country and the British people is the drive for safety and security.
Oh and Another Thing - British People are NOT Powered by Creativity
The British these days are less motivated by Values of Creativity, Achievement, Power, and Influence than many other nations, which may be of concern. Indeed, it may well be a little controversial for many a reader of this article, as I know that many of you advocate the idea that the British are a creative people. But in fact, when compared to other countries, the British, on the whole, are not driven by this Value. It’s a niche within the British population that hold it dear, rather than a particularly common energy, especially when compared to countries such as the US or India where Creativity is prized more highly and guides more of their populations' lives.
Live Life By Your Values and Be Happy
In our study, we also found that:
People are happiest and most fulfilled when living life by their Values
Values-aligned individuals form stronger connections with each other
Humans form closer bonds with brands and companies that share their Values
When we do things ourselves or use, buy, and consume things that contravene our Values, we feel unhappy, unfulfilled, and indeed angry
Think back to your own life, a time when you did or witnessed something that contravened your Values. You may well have felt unhappy with yourself or angry at the situations being played out.
A Reason for the National Angst?
So, in summary, could this all be an explanation for the national angst we’re currently feeling, i.e the contrast of Values between the British people and the Values our politicians insist we all should have? Because let’s be very clear about this: they are not the same. There is clear dissonance and by extension - anger and frustration! On this, it seems that our politicians feel that the Values of the country are what people of the country hold dear, but this simply isn't true. Indeed in some cases, they’re even diametrically opposed! Isn’t it time our politicians truly listened to the Values of the people they represent - rather than a Victorian hangover of beliefs that have no relevance to most British people today?
I rest my case... because it's big and heavy.