6 virtues and 24 strengths

Purpose and values are at the core of well designed organizations. Most organizations purport to have a set of values. Sometimes these are evident only on wall plaques, laminated credit-card listings, and websites – they are not 'lived' in the day to day workplace. Sometimes the values are clearly there, in action (though they may not be written down anywhere). Take an organization like Patagonia whose mission is to

Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.

In line with this the values "reflect those of a business started by a band of climbers and surfers, and the minimalist style they promoted". The company is committed to reducing environmental harm and gives "time, services, and least 1% of our sales to hundreds of grassroots environmental groups all over the world who work to help reverse the tide …The approach we take towards product design demonstrates a bias for simplicity and utility".

Although companies rarely mention virtues and strengths when they talk about 'values', in fact they are very similar. In their book Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification by C. Peterson and M. Seligman, 2004 twenty-four character strengths are discussed (grouped into six larger virtue categories):

(1) strengths of knowledge (creativity, curiosity, judgment, love of learning, wisdom)
(2) strengths of fortitude (bravery, honesty, perseverance, zest)
(3) strengths of humanity (kindness, love, social intelligence)
(4) strengths of justice and community (fairness, leadership, teamwork)
(5) strengths of temperance (forgiveness, modesty, prudence, self-regulation)
(6) strengths of transcendence (appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor and playfulness, religiousness and faith).

Designing these values and strengths into an organization (via things like selection processes, recognition, knowledge sharing forums, etc) would be a powerful way of supporting the values organizations say they want to exhibit but often have difficulty converting this talk into action.

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