What’s the point in navel gazing?

By Ann Morgan, December 2017

About 18 months ago we decided to invest some time and effort into thinking about our culture and our values.  Why, you might ask?  A few reasons… First, we thought it would be good to understand who and what we are as an agency.  We could feel good about the good bits and try to fix any problems that came to light.  Second, we believe a strong culture and set of values are essential in creating the right climate for great client work – creativity, strong thinking, bravery in what we deliver.  Third we all know that work is most fun when the culture where we work is positive and strong – people work well together, feel good about what they are doing and produce really good stuff. But we set out on this ‘journey’ with some serious reservations.  We have all come across sets of corporate ‘values’ that are at best obvious and generic and at worst almost W1A level cringeworthy!  ‘Teamwork’, ‘Integrity’, ‘Respect’, ‘Quality’ etc. – they make us want to curl up in a ball, not bound into work with a spring in our step. So we decided to go down a slightly different path.  We got a little bit of outside help in – to bring a neutral perspective and give the process a stamp of professionalism.  We spent a lot of time talking about what we’re like when we’re at our best and what happens when we are not so good.  This helped us to isolate what is really important to us as well as what our culture is actually like.  It meant that whatever we came up with would be authentic. In the process we came up with a new and (we thought!) better word to describe what we were talking about.  Not culture, or values but the Jigsaw Ethos.  The dictionary definition of ‘ethos’ is: The characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its attitudes and aspirations This felt like what we should be aiming for – a written down statement that describes the unique spirit of the Jigsaw ‘community’ at its best.  And so this is what we’ve done. The Jigsaw Ethos is built around the idea of Citizenship and it shows the two sides of the coin that are implied by this:  a set of promises from Jigsaw to everyone in our team and a description of how we want everyone to work together in return.  No rules, more a set of guidelines and examples designed to bring out the best in all of us – so we work well together, challenge ourselves and each other to be creative and brave, communicate openly and constructively and work towards a common set of goals. We launched the Jigsaw Ethos in May this year.  For this event we wanted to think of something that we could all do together, which we would find scary, but which would feel great once we’d successfully done it.  We took everyone to a bar in Soho for a singing workshop – with a professional choral conductor (yes, Gareth Malone-esque).  It had to be a surprise to stop everyone running for the hills, but it ended up being the perfect activity.  Scary to start with, but collective, fun and rewarding.  And we have just awarded the first Jigsaw Citizenship prize – 17 out of our team of 26 were nominated!  We can’t all be perfect every day, of course, but there’s evidence that we’re all trying harder to be at our best more often than we were. It felt like a big and positive step forward for Jigsaw and really worth the time and investment we made.