Episode 32

Creating a Values-Based Culture

With Paul Ingram
Episode 32

Creating a Values-Based Culture

With Paul Ingram

Professor at Columbia Business School. Award-Winning Leadership Expert. Researcher. Recipient of Dean's Award for Teaching Excellence.

Prof. Ingram's teaching on leadership and culture has won him the Dean's Award for Teaching Excellence and the Executive-MBA Commitment to Excellence Award. His research has been published in more than sixty articles, book chapters and books, and has received numerous distinctions. He consults on issues of leadership, organizational design and strategy to leading companies in the finance, health care, insurance, energy, arts, education, and consumer products industries.

  • I have to say that it was a delightful conversation..an expert on designing conversations and another who has been bring us these great conversations on this channel! Thank you Fred and Hitendra! Peeyush Naidu
  • Very interesting discussion. My takeaway is integrating and nurturing multiple identities are key to richer trusting organisations. Thanks to two great thinkers on these core issues. Niall Donnellan
  • Two outstanding CBS Professors! So grateful for this contribution! Thank you both for your precious and honest insight. Silvia

In this episode of Intersections, Prof. Hitendra Wadhwa has a conversation with Paul Ingram on the topic “Creating a Values-Based Culture”.

Today, the business world is on fire. Corporate leaders are witnessing a growing hunger, from inside their organizations and outside, for the workplace to reflect the right values—values such as inclusion, empathy, autonomy and service to humanity. Those organizations that aren't adapting face serious reputational and performance risks.

How can leaders take their people on a journey toward articulation, awareness, alignment and action along a shared set of values? How do employees harmonize their personal values with the organization's values? How do these shared values relate to performance? What role should business schools play to help create more values-based cultures in business?

“Leaders can’t look around the world and say, “This person would be useful, so I’m going to add them to my network.” Instead, you have to go around the world, build authentic connections to the places you’re going to make investments to reach your professional goals.”
Paul Ingram

The episode "Creating a Values-Based Culture" offers key insights on:

  • The right combination of values to drive organizational success
  • The benefits of developing a robust identity
  • How to eliminate negative stereotyping and embrace humanity


Hitendra Wadhwa: Greetings, folks, and a warm welcome back to Intersections. Our aspiration here is to allow us to dissolve those boundaries that sometimes limit us from seeing things to their fullest sense of possibilities; from being able to be open to new kinds of pathways and breakthroughs that we might get from time to time to expand our horizons and arrive at the fullest potential, as individuals, as teams, as organizations and as humanity. 

Today, our focus is going to be on something really deep at the very core of who you are and who the organization is, where you work, which is your values. I have as our guest, Professor Paul Ingram, who is one of my very dear and well-regarded colleagues at Columbia Business School, who over the last decade has invested a lot of heart and thought in this arena or what it takes to activate and then express your values. 

Let me introduce him to you through a few slides and then we will invite him on to the show as well. In the meanwhile, it's exciting and energizing to see you all. Just say hello and connect with each other here and chat. Feel free to keep doing that. Let's hear from as many of you. It is also just great to see our global village in action. So, thank you, and keep going with the chats. So, Paul is the Kravis Professor of Business at the business school. He received his bachelor's in accounting from Brook University in Canada, where he received the Governor General's Award as a top graduating student. 

He went to Cornell, where he received his M.S. and his Ph.D. in organizational behavior, and has been a faculty at Carnegie Mellon. And then most recently, of course, at Columbia Business School, he's received many awards for his passion and excellence in teaching the Dean's Award for Teaching Excellence and the Commitment to Excellence Award. He's taught at a number of other universities internationally as well. His courses on management and strategy are very active, informed by his research on organizations which he has studied across a number of geographies, including Israel and Scotland, China, Korea, Australia, beyond the United States and Canada. He has researched and published in a large number of articles and book chapters and books. He’s also received a number of distinctions for this, including the Google Prize from the American Journal of Sociology. 

He has consulted on a large number of these issues, continues to be very active in scholarship and in consulting around themes of leadership and organizational design and strategy to leading companies and industries. His current research, in particular, focuses on culture and social networks and the role, as I've said, of values in business. So, it is my great joy to invite into our midst Professor Paul Ingram. Paul, thank you for joining us, welcome


Paul Ingram: A real pleasure, Hitendra. And I've also enjoyed seeing in the chat that there's a lot of old friends from Columbia and elsewhere, so I'm happy to be with you again and with the people I haven't met. Yeah.


Hitendra Wadhwa: Yeah, I was telling my producer friend that I know that the way this post, you know, the last few days caught fire on LinkedIn when we just kind of offered you up as like, you know, the next bit for people to come to Intersections. Guys, I don't know if you've been, like, attending Intersections in the past at all or not, but here we have next; it’s Paul Ingram. 

We had this beautiful picture of yours and just this idea that we can talk about values-based cultures. And it received such a heartfelt response from the community. So, I'm hoping that many of you guys have been able to make it here today. And if not that, you'll be able to watch the recording later. But it's such a thrill to reconnect with this community, isn't it? 


Paul Ingram: Well, it sure is. It sure is.


Hitendra Wadhwa: Yeah. Well, I want to just start by thanking you, because in my own journey, in moving in a sense, like my passions and interests from strategy and marketing into human potential and leadership, early on, you know, there's this period when one is a little bit unsure of one's footing and one is seeking to activate that inner voice and a sense of my own values and bring them out into a practical expression and seek some kind of reassurance from the world that this is going to work. 

This new path is going to work in those early, unsteady days when I was still kind of like a toddler. And now I'm just like a bumbling youth, you know, in this area. But when I was that toddler, I mean, it was amazing. You were just so interested and open and encouraging and proactive and just, you know, just giving me more confirmation that, look, this is a good path for you. And I've come and presented in this guest executive audience and that one, etc. And I always look back at that as a very formative and important act of support that came from you.


Paul Ingram: Well, I learn something every time I see you in one of these classes. So, it's fitting that, if anything, it's certainly been more rewarding for me. But I appreciate your recognition of our early work together.


Hitendra Wadhwa: Yeah. And what I'm noticing is that since then, our paths are converging more and more. Your research has gone into areas that have a lot to do with understanding the inner psyche of a leader from the vantage point of them as a human being. And so can you talk a little bit about what led you to be interested? 

I mean, today, this topic of values is getting a lot of currency. You know, things have turned around so much in the last 12 months, both in people's homes and in their own personal soul searching, as well as in organizations. And the idea of purpose and meaning and fulfillment and well-being and values is very central today. But you've been at it for about ten odd years. So, what is it that at that stage when it wasn't really very fashionable to be investing in these things that got you sparked?


Paul Ingram: I can answer from a number of elements. One is an example of impact. So, I noticed that one of our guests on the session is a fellow named Manny Elkind, who I've worked with for some decades at Columbia. Manny is a coach in the space of values, and we can go back more than a decade where I saw some of his work with executives around values. And I was just struck by the impact. 

Of course, it's not the same for everyone, but people would come out of a session with Manny, you know, with a new glint in their eye. And I got curious about what was behind that. So, some of it is seeing the impact as people discover their values. Take a step back from that. You know, like you, I have become very interested in personal leadership, leading oneself as a foundation for leading others and leading organizations. 

And if I was trying to explain that interest, I suppose I would say it comes from just a recognition that what we do as leaders is not restricted to the letter of our job descriptions, that we're doing it all the time and in all interactions. And it happens on the streets of New York City as much as it does in a meeting with your team. And also, like you, I do come from a background thinking about strategy. 

And something always occurred to me, and I think it's still very important as people develop themselves as leaders. If you think about strategic advantage, you know, it depends on differentiation. And, you know, at what point you go back 20 years, 10 years before you and I and others were working in this area. A lot of the views on leadership were really kind of very accessible, explicit ideas, right? There's kind of a list of best practices and a good team has these features, and a transformational leader does these things. 

And I suppose it occurred to me. Right, you know, from the exposure to those ideas, as someone who thinks strategically that it can't be that easy. That if it was just a matter of taking these explicit ideas and following these best practices, well, everybody would be a great leader because we know what makes a difference. And if you could just access the recipe and implement it, people would do that. So, it occurred to me that it must be that hard to follow those best practices. 

And really the explanation for that is it requires a personal transformation. So, from that kind of puzzle about how we back the importance of this subject to the fact that you know, it's hard to do and the people who do it well do get rewarded if introspectively and externally that I arrived at personal leadership is something that just grabbed my professional attention.


Hitendra Wadhwa: Yeah, that's so beautiful. I'm just curious Paul, in making that journey, have you felt a certain natural instinct to turn the lens within and, in a sense, make it both inform and inspire this chapter of your own career and life?


Paul Ingram: I absolutely, you know, I think you can't avoid doing that. I don't consider myself gifted at personal leadership. In a sense, I hope I'm in a position which is like many of the people joining us, which is that I've recognized the importance, and it's sort of a constant struggle to understand and regulate myself, but I am a really systemic user of the ideas that you and I and others talk about, leading ourselves growth mindset, being aware of values. So, like hopefully many of the people who are on this call, I carry around a representation of my values. 

I remind myself about them at some of the times when I kind of feel that I need a kind of infusion of self-awareness and confidence. And, you know, in a sense, we could take your personal leadership class and the various modules. I find I'm constantly in a struggle to do my best to put those into action. So, I'm a consumer, and this might be part of my interest. And maybe also, I hope, part of my empathy with the other people who are doing this work, because it's very hard for me. I sometimes talk to, more recently, I talk to my students in the executive MBA about my own progress towards developing a growth mindset, which was 20 years of a lot of setbacks and still a work in progress. So, I'm empathetic to the learners in this space.


Hitendra Wadhwa: Thank you for sharing that personal journey, Paul. You know, it's interesting, I was mentioning LinkedIn was on fire about this session and one of the folks who commented on this was post was a person named GIlli. Gilli said it's important to keep your laminated card for a rainy day. 

And initially I was like, I don't know, directly but like, it sounds to me like he might be communicating this comment for some other post somewhere. You know, we just announced a values-based culture. What is he talking about keeping a laminated God for a rainy day? But then I remembered, of course, what it is he talks about, because I know that's a core part of how you make these very actionable people. So, we've come back to talk about the actual reality later. But could you just help explain to folks here what he meant by that?


Paul Ingram: Yeah, gladly. So, this is also something I've learned from others. Matty, who I mentioned, was before me in terms of this kind of concrete representation of values. But the students in my classes leave with a representation of their values on a laminated card they can put in their wallets. And I encourage them. I ask them to at least try that out and to see how it works for them. 

And I think many or most of them give it a try. And luckily, I get great pleasure, and I have to say it's one of the most satisfying parts of my professional life that years, that sometimes decades after the initial work we do in class, I'll hear someone talk about how they're using the concrete manifestation of their values, the kind of capacity to bring their values top of mind that the card represents. 

Of course, you can personalize this tool. So, over the years, I've had people send me symbols that they've created that represent their value. I recall, a kind of snowboard that somebody had their values on and kind of artistic posters that end up in people's offices. So, I love the personalization that some people have applied to that tool. But the idea really is to do the work of surfacing and identifying your top values and then to keep them handy so you can raise them to conscious competence. So, on the rainy day that Gilli referred to when it feels that the world is a little bit against you or you're torn between dimensions of yourself with choices that are very hard to make, that you can remind yourself about what matters most to you. 

We find that being able to do that reminder actually has a really powerful effect on individuals. We studied this experimentally, but people bring their values to the top of mind and they're more ethical. Others perceive individuals with the top of the mind more positively. They view them as more trustworthy and more authentic, and people are even happier if they bring their values to the top of mind.


Hitendra Wadhwa: Yeah, yeah. So powerful. I want to ask you if you can help us think about, for those who have not had the benefit of being in your class, what are values? And one of the things that I sometimes muddle over is the distinction between values and if you want to call them core beliefs or principles that people might have. 

Ray Dalio has come out with this book on his principles after a very successful career in investment banking. And it's you know, it's something that I think is also giving people pause to think about sort of, you know, what is my version of that Ray Dalio list of principles. And so, yeah would you have a way of connecting the two, correlating them? And as you just kind of like kind of think what your response to that well, one thing I just for the benefit of audience highlight is that you just said that you don't practice personal leadership as much and you like to become better at all of those things but I mean, guys, for those of us who have been in Paul's class and therefore who know Paul, and of course, I can vouch for that. 

And my own observations of you, Paul, in the classroom, I mean, you are incredibly invested in personal leadership, the manner in which you engage with our audiences that I've seen, the manner in which you engage with people like me and others, you know, your colleagues and the passion you bring, the commitment you bring, the attentiveness you bring, the amount of time that you put in, the individual attention that you share, the care with which you're really invested in helping uplift everyone to their best game and invest in sort of like helping the growth happen. I don't know. 

I mean, like, to me, that is a very inspiring example of personal leadership and action. So, I mean, folks, feel free to use that to share your own stories and examples of how you experience that energy from Paul. I mean, there's a reason why you've been acknowledged with so many of these awards as well. So anyway, that is not as much something I invite you to respond to as much I just wanted to share. But my question to you was about values versus principles and beliefs.


Paul Ingram: Thank you. Yeah. So, I think that this is a really useful distinction to make. And let's just say from the outset that the values and beliefs and I think principles, are ultimately attitudes that are associated on a kind of chain of inference where we go from some kind of stimuli in the world to kind of making sense of it. But values occupy a particular and I think a very critical place on that chain, and it's worth recognizing that. So, a value is a principle of evaluation. 

And so, your values are what determine for you that some object is good or bad or important. So, these are the ultimate ends that you are pursuing. Something I want to say, and this is going to be a quite significant distinction between certain beliefs and attitudes, is that in the work that I've done empirically in the space of values, you know, at this point, I've probably solicited values of ten thousand leaders from around the world, all kinds of people. Overwhelmingly, I would say almost completely, every value that those ten thousand people have cited is one of their top values, is one that almost everybody else in the set, everybody else in humanity would recognize as a value. 

They would say, yes, that is something which is valuable. More of that in the world is good. Now, they, of course, would say, and they say all the time, it's not one of my top values. It's good value. It's not one of my very top values. That difference in prioritization is why values matter, I think. But when people truly cite their values of the things they cite and have a kind of universal recognition as values. So, I would say it's only at the very fringes of my empirical work and values that anybody ever cites anything that everybody else would not agree is of value. So, here's what's critical about that. 

Compare that to what people often start to think about. If you just raise the topic of values in a kind of common conversation. They often think about attitudes like your position with regard to some object, maybe a kind of political question. Sometimes people say, well, if you're out, that's a value. The position you take on some political question, that’s an attitude. Your evaluation of some specific art object is an attitude, and sometimes people also confound values and beliefs. Your belief is how you think the world works. If there's more of X and more of Y will happen. I think of beliefs as connecting values, but a belief is not the same thing as a value. And people can disagree. And we know they disagree acutely over attitudes. And certainly, people have different beliefs about the mechanics. 

If you do more X, will you get more Y or someone else will think you'd get more Z. But values people don't disagree about. They have different priorities, but they recognize each other. Values are those values. So, what I think is that a principle, a principle could be a value where it might be a combination of beliefs and values. 

If the principle is a behavioral rule like you should always speak first in a meeting, then that's not only a value, but that’s also probably some value, some outcome you're pursuing combined with beliefs about social dynamics. So, the word principle could be used to represent values or something more downstream. But I guess what I would like to emphasize most is that I think a lot of the power of values is that they're not exclusionary. If you know somebody else's values, you're drawn towards them. Even if the values are different from your own, they're a source of generating respect. 

I think that they're a great ingredient of resolving interpersonal conflict. And so, in that sense, I encourage people to remember that values are the very early, the kind of fundamental stage, about what are the ultimate ends. More of this in the world is a good thing to me and not so much about the means to get there. People disagree about the means. I think almost universally if people are honest, if psychologically healthy people are honest about the ends, they can respect each other's positions.


Hitendra Wadhwa: Very powerful. You talked about non-exclusionary values and non-exclusion. Let's come back and actually reflect a little bit more on that, a little bit closer to the end of a conversation because I am intrigued about whether that creates possibilities for us in a world where we are facing a fair amount of strife and divisions at some level, if there is a path forward in leadership for some individuals to lead the charge of appealing and invoking certain shared universal values as a basis for helping dissolve some of those boundaries. 

And I'd be curious, let's come back to that for now. Maybe we can take a few minutes on the individual's journey and then move it to the organization's journey around values. For those of us who haven't had the benefit of being in your class, you know, what is the advice you might give someone to get more connected with what is most unique to them, most true to them in terms of their core values? It is the kind of conversation that we have naturally. So, an educational system as such. 

We were taught mathematics, history and science. But this idea of like going through this process of self-discovering this intangible thing you call your values. Do you have maybe just a couple of prescriptions that you can offer our audience? 


Paul Ingram: Yeah, I would offer, I guess, two key inputs to that. One is reflection. I had said that values are the thing, the principles that determine that some object for you is good, bad or important. And so, if you reflect on peak moments in your career, in your life, whether they're good, bad, or simply, they feel really important to you and try and distill them to the essence. The essence is your values, right. 

So, what's been your best day at work in the last year? And what was it about that day that made it so great? What was the worst day at work in the last year? What was wrong with that day? What was missing from that day that caused it to be negative? So, your answers to questions like that will be in the space of your values. So, the first step is reflection, reflection on the things you feel strongly about and getting at the why behind them. 

Now, there's another step that I do think it turns out to be really important for putting values into action, and that is working on the kind of personal translation of articulating this kind of sense of importance in the language. I don't think this is important, that this is personal because I've really seen that the language that people use is, you know, it differs. 

You can get people to talk about their values, and they might look at the labels they use and say, oh, this person's baffling to me. But then when they unpack the labels, they really find a greater understanding and connections with each other. So, you know, the work we do helping people see their values includes encouraging them to do reflection, but then just presenting them with options for articulation to find the ones that are just most compelling. People who've done classes with me know that we can give them chances to trade values for some choice. And we kind of tap into the intuition about what values matter most. But I'll also just say it's kind of getting at the fact that we articulate value symbolically. 

I'll just mention that I've been doing some work over the last couple of years actually, trying to get its values from the use of language and it turns out to be doable. So, what we do is we take text, we take essays that the students write when they go to business school, and we do machine learning to try and distill values from the language they use. 

And we can do it now. We can't come up with a kind of set of values that are exactly their values but we could take two individuals and we could say, oh, their values are more similar or more dissimilar based on what we've been able to distill from the language they use. 

So, there's a sense about what matters most and you've got to kind of tap into that sense. I think the way you do that is reflection. And then you've got to find out for you how you express that sense? And you do it in language. And I think it's a matter of finding these words, which are the symbols for you that unpack these kinds of deeper impulses.  Question and articulation.


Hitendra Wadhwa: Right. You know, Paul, it's such an important spark for people to have and I'm just thrilled to see how many of us are just going to fondly remember how you brought them to that moment in the journey that you are taking them on. I want to share a quote here from one of the heroes I admire, Eleanor Roosevelt, who went through a lot of personal strife and at some point, discovered that she really didn't care about what she stood for. You know, that maybe that pre-juncture from where you are inviting people to do the reflection. 

And then she did come to a really good place and ultimately had a very storied life and career and mark on the world. And here's a quote from her. I don't know, something you come across, but I thought this might be very apropos, she says, to be mature. So, she said this later in life as she reflected, in a sense, on her own journey. I think she's commenting as much on where she was as she is on lighting a fire with others about it. She said, to be mature you have to realize what you value most. 

It is extraordinary to discover that comparatively few people reach this level of maturity. They seem never to have paused to consider what has value for them. There's been a great effort and sometimes made great sacrifices for values that fundamentally meet no real needs of their own. Perhaps, they have embodied the values of their particular professional job or community or neighbors or parents or family. Not arriving at a clear understanding of one's own values is a tragic waste. 

You have missed the whole point of what life is for. It's beautiful. Yeah. So, let's move into the organizational space, if that makes sense. We are at a point in history where I think there's a, you know, tell me what you think about what's happening in the business world and in business schools, but the sense I get is that with every new generation of students that we have and employees that enter the workforce, there is a growing hunger for ‘Guys. Yes, I want to earn the right paycheck. I want the right position and role. But I actually want to feel very harmonized in terms of who I think I'm authentically, really meant to be and what you are offering me in the workplace as the climate as a cause’. 

And so, this notion of true values means starting to become so central and I think no business or no leader who may have as much or more gray hair than you and me. I mean, the point is, at the end of the day, they're starting to wake up to this fact that regardless of what it was like when they were in their 20s and 30s, at this point, if we've got to attract and retain and inspire this next generation, we have to become a lot more open to realizing that, in a sense, the laws of business are starting to evolve and purpose and values starting to get to the very core of what it is. 

And almost like every day you hear about some controversy, right? I mean, recently, Goldman Sachs has been in the news. McKinsey has been in the news. I mean, a lot of these storied icons of the business world that many of us have just like habituated to thinking of as like the, you know, the pinnacle of success. And they're in the spaces. And the ones that won points too for best practices are getting a little bit, you know, and perhaps now hopefully I leave it shaken up and woken up. Right. And so anyway, I'm just curious about what your thoughts are about the sensuality today of values in the workplace. And then perhaps we can talk a little bit more about how to get them.


Paul Ingram: Yeah. So, I think there's evidence in support of your premise that as time goes on that we find some places more than others, but employees are looking for more and we can talk about meaning broadly, but also are more concerned about the impact of their work. So, I do think in that sense, I don't think it's a brand new thing. 

I think that broadly, organizational cultures being a real kind of we've known it's a powerful lever for performance and collaboration for a long time. But I just feel that we're sort of in the era of organizationally the era of culture, but it is aggregation and affiliation around values that I think is becoming more and more the difference-maker in terms of how people feel about their careers and their organizations and therefore how they work with each other. And I would say, and perhaps this is where you might be thinking about taking the conversation, but the organizational responses to this phenomenon, organizations know this, but their responses are not always fully satisfying. 

In particular, I'll get back to how I began. I said that look, leadership is hard, so it can't be as easy as just taking some solution off the shelf. It's got to involve some kind of transformation. And I think that when it comes to values, some organizations are perhaps falling into the same trap. It's not as easy as having some consultants or the CEO script out a set of official values and saying, ‘this is us’. There has to be a kind of resonance between the kind of superficial articulation of the values and really what's deeper in the organization. 

Think about it as authenticity for the organization, which is actually difficult to produce. So, we get all kinds of organizations. We see it all the time that everybody in this audience is experiencing at work with some frequency and regularity, investments and articulations of values. But you have to do it right. And I do think that an organization that decides, in fact we know from research that an organization that decides to put integrity on the Web page as a value, does not actually change anything in its operations. Its performance doesn't change simply by putting that label. So, I think the work of leveraging values for organizations like individuals is deeper. And I think you have to do it to actually get the benefits.


Hitendra Wadhwa: Yeah, let's maybe brainstorm a little bit on this, because I'm with you. I think that you know, while people are getting fired up about it, we do need to help guide, support leaders and think about sort of how to really make it real, make it real for them. It's something that, you know, and I work at Mentora Institute, for example. 

You know, there's a fair amount of these conversations and these kinds of projects underway right now about how do we get them really for all icons and other organizations, get it into the DNA, get into the daily practices, the hard choices kind of conversation that happens when nobody's looking. And one of the things that I want to test with you is a thought that has been on my mind is what is the motivation for doing that work. 

If the motivation is purely to protect your position in the marketplace or to do it because that's what the external pressures and demands are on you, I wonder if it's a, you know, reliable and stable enough source of motivation. And instead, should the motivation not ultimately have to come from a very authentically felt place within where the key stewards of that organization, whether it is the board or the CEO or the C suite, you know, at the minimum, to start with this group of key influences? 

And then one can even think about the investors who are imposing demands as to what it is that they're seeking from the organization. You know, some part of that ecosystem needs to, you know, needs to feel from a very deep place that the way I have led my life, the way we have worked together has been good. But now it can be great. 

You know, I'm grateful to you, all of the people who have invested in bringing us to the present point with the products and services and resources and storied names we have in all of that. But to go from here to there, we've got to advance humanity and part of that is to advance ourselves. And we ought to feel that from within. They're going to feel that anyway. I mean, what are your thoughts on that? There's just something that's been coming to me.


Paul Ingram: Yeah, I'm going to ask Anobik if he's able to show the fourth slide which has something I could talk about in this context. So, what I'm representing here is, I think, kind of the tension that Hitendra is describing. And so, I have in mind here what I call official values is the articulation of values from an organization. 

And I'm suggesting here that ideally, it is coming from two sources, a kind of top-down from the position in the market, the strategy we could imagine sort of cultures and values being associated with success and certain strategies. So certain values might support a strategy that requires more innovation, different values might support a strategy that's more on efficiency and that turns out to matter. 

And so, there's evidence that some of the kind of market results depend on that alignment. But there's another alignment here, which I do think is the kind of multiplier, and I actually think it's necessary to get the other result, which is what we might call authenticity. So, what I'm trying to represent here, by this word cloud, is the values that people in the organization actually hold. And Hitendra, I like that you talked about stakeholders, including investors, I think it could be customers as well. 

But I would also encourage you to think you said start with the people at the top of the organization. I can understand that they've got an influence on the culture, but I think that you should be really inclusive in terms of all of the participants in the organization. I think that if the bottom two-thirds of the organization is kind of alienated from the official values, I think that has dire implications for profitability and for higher purposes. 

So, the idea here is that this resonance of the organization's values with the organic culture, what people in the organization actually feel is being important to them, turns out to matter a lot. And, you know, we know this empirically, that if people are part of a team or department or an organization that they feel is aligned with their own values, it is transformational in terms of their performance. 

They're better collaborators. They give more to the organization. They go the extra mile. But it also affects their commitment and what they take from the organization. You feel like the organization is home to you. If you have this resonance between what the organization stands for and what you yourself feel is important for your own values. And Hitendra, to pick up on your point about more than just the financial results. 

So, in some of the empirical research I've done, you find that people will leave an organization that does not align with their own values, even if they're paid substantially more. So, I've got one study that shows that differences in value fit from somewhat weak to somewhat good people, associate with a 40 percent raise in pay. So, you could have organizations that are making 40 percent more profits and distributing that among their stakeholders. 

But if the stakeholders really feel that the organization isn't aligned with their values, the results show that they will stop their association, they'll stop contributing to the organization. If they're investors, they'll invest elsewhere. If their employees don't work elsewhere, customers will give up value from products if they feel that there's a tension with their underlying personal values. 

So, you know, this is not ephemeral. It is a fundamental big input into utility. And when I think we really slide ourselves and everybody else and humanity, when we think about utility and just kind of know dollar terms. It's not simply a function of profitability. People trade that off against how the outcome was produced and that how, in terms of values, matters a lot. So, the beautiful thing about that is if you do the work of creating this alignment, you get better performance, and you get the benefits that people enjoy when they're resonant. Their values are resonant with those of the organizations they're part of. So, there is this kind of magic position where you can get the best of both worlds. It does take some work.


Hitendra Wadhwa: Yeah. It's interesting because it’s almost like we are changing some of the usual measures of how we define fit, between an employee in an organization or across employees, an organization. You know, I remember when I joined McKinsey after my time in graduate school, I thought that what I was looking for in terms of like the tribes within McKinsey were the people who were interested in the same industries that I was interested in or in the same functions and kind of like strategic issues that I was interested in. 

But I think what you're defining here is that there's a whole different kind of currency of connection and alignment across people, which is their values. And how do you feel about the values of the organization or the team that you're a part of?


Paul Ingram: I agree completely, and I want to, but I want to say something about that might be on the minds of some in the audience. I just want to kind of raise the label fit that you used. I agree with what you said. And I think organizations that operate from that principle and employees who operate from that principle will do better for themselves and other stakeholders. 

We can't use the word fit in a sloppy way. So, there is, I think, an appropriate critique of one way of thinking about fit that suggests that people have used that label to fit superficially, and they've used it to exclude people based on things that are not the kind of deeper values. Of course, I would be against that kind of organization. 

But I don't think you should throw out the concept of fit because some people have used it in a sloppy or maybe even abusive way. So, what I would say and I'll be empirical about this, is that there's lots of reason to believe that the most effective team, the most effective organizations have a foundation of alignment around values and diversity in lots of other dimensions. That's a really powerful combination and in a sense, the alignment of values on the diversity of thinking style and perspective and experience and interests, those multiply each other to create, I think, wonderful outcomes. 

And you can produce that. So, the work I've done empirically on values suggests, look, they don't come out of nowhere. For example, values do have an association with national cultures, but it is not overwhelmingly strong. I mean, I think you would say first that values are personal. They're individuals. They come from our families. Yes, they come from our cultures. Yes. But just because, you know, the nation of origin and the demographics of some individual, your capacity to predict their values is pretty poor. 

There's something really individual about them. So, what this means is that you can build organizations where people fit on values and that represent diversity in all kinds of other perspectives and experiences. And it's that combination that I think has so much potential. So, I'm completely with you. I think that people in their careers who use this lens of a value alignment to choose employers, at least in the long run, I think it's very satisfying. 

And I think that if you don't do that, those are the kinds of careers that you get towards the end of them and you kind of think, what have I done for the last 30 years? And organizations that take that perspective, I think, produce a lot of benefit in terms of performance. Yes. But also, in terms of the satisfaction of the stakeholders.


Hitendra Wadhwa: Yeah. Thank you. I mean, actually, I can just offer myself up as one data point part of this transition, because just this morning I was thinking a little bit about how at a certain point in my career, I was doing X, Y, Z, and I was just realizing today that even if it was actually going to be highly financially rewarding for me to go back and do X, Y, Z, there's just no way that I would choose to do it. 

You know where I am today. I mean, you know, with God's grace, I don't have, like, an acute state of sort of hunger and deprivation, that I'm just desperate for any kind of project. And perhaps if I got that state, Maslow's hierarchy, who knows? 

You know, but in general, I just feel like there's a metamorphosis that happens when one adds this dimension of meaning, purpose, and values on top of some of those more traditional like external markers of what drives one. And I'm guessing that you must have seen a lot of that transformation happen with your students in the class as you invoke and offer this up. I mean, I'm seeing so much of them just like talking about it here in the chat.


Paul Ingram: Yeah, I absolutely agree. And, you know, I'm thinking a little bit, we talked about fit, I'm thinking about something somebody shared with me in the last year, certainly in the last year or so, it's relatively recent. But a student from Columbia who had taken the values tool and used it explicitly in the job search, I mean, literally put it on the table in job interviews and reported to me that it was always rewarding. 

They didn't always recognize the fit. In some instances, they would recognize, oh, this is a misfit. We should stop the interview. That even happened in an instance. But this former student reported that he found fit by doing this and in some instances got a surprising number of job offers and no one resisted the idea of taking the job interview into the space of values. He said that it was always a generative step to put the values on the table and say, hey, let's talk about this. Nobody said no. 

We're talking about your answers to the interview, questions that we're talking about, the test we gave you on your creativity. No one said that. They all said, yeah, let's talk about values. This is important. So, you know, I think it would be you know, I'd be very happy if coming out of conversations like this, people felt enabled, maybe even entitled, to consider their values as part of these choices. I don't think it's a selfish thing to do because I think you're better for others when you yourself are grounded in your values. I think it's just part of being effective and it's a way of thinking that I think would have been less common in the past. So we've got to bring ourselves around to it. But I think it's absolutely legitimate, and it makes a big difference for you and others.


Hitendra Wadhwa: Right. Let's do this. Let's take a poll with our audience and ask you if you had to identify what are your top two values, the things that you've most invested in, that give you the most natural kind of motivation and strength and a feeling that you're being really true to yourself and expressing your authentic self. What would those two be for you? I'd love to see as many of us, all of those up here and chat just so we can understand and see what that diversity and range of values looks like for all of you. 

And as you're doing that, also, of course, this is an opportunity for you to ask questions and thoughts that are still on your mind about the conversation we're having with Paul. So, feel free to offer those as well. And as we do that, Paul, maybe, you know, I can take the conversation into this non-exclusionary kind of point you made about values which are putting another way, the inclusionary possibilities in an approach to life which is very grounded in values. 

Now, there is a piece of research that I found very refreshing and infused with just a lot of possibilities that you have been doing recently around, you know, around identity and, you know, going beyond the existing paradigm, which is an important step that the world has been striving to take to create a more inclusive world for us by helping people understand themselves and each other through that lens of race and gender and sexual preference and et cetera. But you're taking it to another level. 

And we know there have been some hiccups, some challenges in trying to make that inclusion aspiration really a lived truth in culture and organizations. Some people are invested in it, inspired by it, and others are skeptical of it in the way the movement so far has been offered up to the world. And I see possibilities in this robust identity approach that you've taken that I think is worth highlighting and sharing with our audience as so. 

So, can you talk about it? I can just introduce us to what is robust identity and what are the couple of key benefits that you have found from having people acquire this practice as one of the core values?


Paul Ingram: I would love to talk about that. Perhaps if we could show my second slide, that might give us a kind of grounding and a big slide, too. So, what you have here is something that recent students from Columbia Business School will recognize and maybe other people will. This is what we call an identity map. 

And, you know, you don't have to come to the Columbia Business School to be in the space of having been asked to kind of represent and map your identity. It happens at other top business schools. It happens in education throughout the cycle of education organizations are investing in this way of doing it. We do it as other business schools do. 

And I became very interested in thinking about the implications of identity for performance on a job, for fit, for relationships and so on. So, you know, I was struck by the fact that the world is generating hundreds of millions of these maps all the time and we don't yet know much about what they predict. So, I'm an empiricist who set out to study that. And I started with a concept, and I think there are other directions you could go, but I start with the concept of robustness, which is simply the idea that you have more dimensions to your identity. So literally, what I've done is I've taken these maps, and I've counted how many distinct representations of the self that somebody has. 

Now let me just say something about identity and personal identity. This is what is salient about you to you. So, it is not simply characteristics. You know, your identity might include things like race and gender, but people don't always have those things as part of their identity. Sometimes you'll ask someone for their identity, and they'll cite things that may not, you know, include things that are objectively true about them. 

So, these are not just a description of individuals. This is how the individual sees himself or herself. And what we have is what I've learned in this research. The first step, I think there's much more to be done here. But if you have more of this multi-dimensional representation of yourself, what I call a robust identity, it's a good thing for making connections with other people. So, people with robust identities form more network relationships. They kind of maintain more of the kind of social capital that allows you to bridge differences and access ideas and get things done. And I think and by the way, this is even more true in the face of diversity in other dimensions. 

So, if you look at two individuals who are demographically diverse, their likelihood of connecting to each other is even more dependent on this kind of multidimensional dimensionality of their own identities, their own representations of themselves. So, I guess what I would say, Hitendra, is that the point of this and I think the idea about the potential for integration in organizations in society comes from understanding the multidimensional dimensionality that we all, of course, represent.

I mean, these aren't really different people. These are people who solve concepts that are more or less inclusive. And so far, I've been studying important relationships as the dependent variable. I looked at performance in organizations and some other outcomes, including wellbeing. 

And they lead me to the position that understanding yourself in this more inclusive way, not just as an employee of Goldman Sachs or a student of the Columbia Business School, but 30 or 40 other elements, it turns out to be a resource that gives you the capacity to make connections with others and see yourself as being effective. It gives you kind of an opportunity to move from situation to situation and find what it's in yourself that you could bring to bear to create a positive result.


Hitendra Wadhwa: Yeah, I think there's something so powerful there and I'm hoping that you're going to continue to invest in this area and unpack this topic for us more and more in the months and years ahead because it seems like you're at the tip of something quite, quite profound and it'll inform this field in so many beautiful ways. I'm just thinking what when I think about some of the lessons of leadership that I sometimes teach in personal leadership, some of the conversations and work that we had a chance to do in Mentora as well around the theme of inclusion and creating an inclusive culture and inclusive leadership. 

This is a principle that you know, that I've sort of put out there. And I think I'm seeing a connection to this, which is that in some ways it's risky to put people into any kind of box, any kind of box, you know, based on a socio-demographic variable that you make most salient about their collective identity, you know, within your organization that this is the community or that is a community knows it has a certain import and has something important. I think there are some good things happening here to remedy some of the social injustices of the past that are really important to capture in so many ways. 

But, you know, there's also this notion, though, that sometimes you run the risk that you then assume that everybody in that box is the same. There is actually everybody who has lived experience could be quite different. And so, we lose that ability to, in a very discerning way, see people for who they are as individual thumbprints. I'm starting to start to see them in group storms, and I'm thinking what you're seeing there is the opportunity to unshackle our thinking and to always challenge us to see people in a much more multifaceted way.


Paul Ingram: Absolutely. And what I would say in terms of what organizations are doing, is it the first step I think would be perfectly healthy. So, I am for recognizing dimensions of identity in their multitude. But what I would say is, I saw my old friend Bob Callahan is on this call who is an improviser so I would say when it comes to identity, remember ‘yes and’. Recognize the parts of your identity, your organization might offer an employee support group around some identity category. If you feel you belong there, join it. 

But don't use that to exclude all of the other elements of identity that might appeal to you to represent yourself. So don't allow anyone dimension to crowd out the others. So, I would say yes and understand it starts. I think it starts really not only with how we characterize others, but I think it starts with how we characterize ourselves because others will take the cue from us. My research shows in a sense that my perception of you depends on your identity, which happens within your head. 

So, I would say cultivate the multidimensionality of that. Don't reduce yourself to an archetype or a stereotype or a caricature of just one category. Embrace all the categories that appeal to you, and I mean all of them, and maybe even do a little bit of discovery to find some others that you might want to add to your self-awareness.


Hitendra Wadhwa: There's something so beautifully mathematical about how that leads to more active cultivation of your network. Right. Because as you've said, the more you have those, the more likely there is that if you randomly bump into somebody and if you're able to invoke that in them as well, or you're searching through their identity profile and you just find common ground, you find common ground with perhaps everybody. 


Paul Ingram: Yeah, yeah. I think that's how it works in two ways. One is if there are more dimensions to you, there are more opportunities for common ground. But even in the absence of that, the truth of the matter is that if somebody is more multidimensional, we see what the psychological process is called individuation. We see them more as individuals as opposed to representations of some category or group. And individuals are appealing. We are attracted to people who we see as individuals. So, yes, you can discover commonality in the absence of commonality simply because multidimensionality gives you a platform and a foundation for connecting.


Hitendra Wadhwa: I see. How interesting! So, it's not just that you're finding common ground with them, but somehow, they are more drawn to your inner charisma of some kind.


Paul Ingram: You call it a type of charisma. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We're attracted to people who are multidimensional.


Hitendra Wadhwa: Yeah. Now if you swing the pendulum to the other extreme end of the spectrum, I'm going to be interested to see if you and others invested in this kind of academic pursuit of studying identity might at some point see possibilities in this fall, which is when I take a very Gandhian lens on identity. 

You know he would say that look, we're all very different from the outside, you know, in terms of faith and gender and color of skin and all of that but from the inside, each of us is the soul, you know. So, this notion is kind of like spiritual traditions of seeing everyone stand on the common ground, of being like the soul, you know. 

And I know that's not like perhaps one of the most actively embraced kinds of teams right now in the inclusion kind of world. But I see possibilities there to create breakthroughs in helping to unite and unify people if we can ever train ourselves to go beyond some of these differences, more to that core. I don't know what you think of that.


Paul Ingram: I, I think that it's true. And we can talk about the language to put on it. I'll just translate it a little bit into a kind of contemporary psychological science. There is literally evidence if you've got individuals from an outgroup, that would typically be subject to negative stereotypes, that if you know more about those individuals, that they're not just a member of this category, but they are a parent or a child and there's someone who does this outside of work, you get the multidimensionality, the robust identity, then the likelihood of negative stereotyping goes down. 

Your attribution of humanity to them goes up, right? So, call that humanization, you can use the label I used individualization. You could talk about it as the soul but something about the kind of sacredness of the individual is a function of avoiding this very simple categorization. I want to call it soul so I don't object. But there's evidence, I think, in support of what you say.


Hitendra Wadhwa: Oh, thank you. Yeah. I actually was not as aware of that. So that was beautiful and important for me to hear. Thank you for coming to the end. I mean, come to the end of the hour, folks, if you're open to staying with us, of course, this is going to be recorded on YouTube as well. 

So, if you need to go, we're going to have it there for you to consume the last few minutes. But if you are going to spend about five more minutes, I may have one more question for you to bring us to closure. Thank you. So, I was just curious if you could go back to your roots and what has defined and shaped you at the very formative periods of your life. And, you know, just to share a little bit with us. What was it like growing up as Paul and what are one or two of those experiences that you look back and say like that that made me who I am today?


Paul Ingram: Mm-hmm. Thank you for that question. I guess I'll say I feel a little bit more prepared to answer it because I've started to do some of this work on identity. And I guess that you know, that leads you to think about self-definition. But I'll tell you, formative, you know, people who know me will know I'm a Canadian. 

I have a, you know, it's recently come back to my memory that my early life experience, my childhood was really much, very much in the space of these robust identities. Canada is a country, I think a beautiful feature is that it's a really multicultural country. And I lived in a part of it. I lived in a kind of a street where every family was from one typically different generation, maybe even with a parent born in a different country. It was incredibly diverse from that perspective. And it's probably so much that I absorbed in that context that, you know, has is kind of bred in the bone, 

I suppose, in terms of my perspective and I guess what's been happening in the last year or two, you know, both some of our own social and organizational trends that we're in the middle and some of the research I've been doing is I've been kind of tapping back at, you know, some of the opportunities. I guess I was presented early in life in recognizing all of the different elements that go into the self. And I think that I've been trying to remind myself about the significance of that. 

So, remembering that something which a year ago might not have been salient to me, but that my parents were, of course, they were both immigrants, but they were actually a Protestant, Scottish Protestant and an Irish Catholic, which is a real kind of at the moment, a sort of contagious mix. And of course, that was just my family but as you come to think about identity, it becomes something which I reflect on probably is an advantage that I'm kind of coming from lots of fissures in terms of immigration and backgrounds and my own kind of career transitions that I'm trying to think now more in terms of opportunities. 

So, for example, some people here might know that I've recently published some work. I've got an article, a very recent Harvard Business Review on what social class background does to your likelihood of becoming a manager. And the article makes the point that people from humble social class backgrounds are much less likely to be managers. And we should recognize that as kind of a feature when we're trying to build diverse organizations and use human capital to its biggest potential. I think those things are true. But it's also got me thinking that I come from a working-class background, and I've actually been trying to follow my own advice of not saying, oh, this is my category. Who am I? 

I'm a working-class person at Columbia Business School, but instead, I want to recognize the opportunities that are presented and how it mixes with the other things I've done in my life. So, I guess I'm kind of going full circle to say that I'm in a constant struggle to implement personal leadership. And I suppose what I'm doing now is trying to follow the advice that I just gave to the people in the audience. I think that we’d benefit from understanding the multidimensionality of ourselves and apply that to ourselves and make the categories that are very salient there. But in correspondence and in the mix with lots of other things.


Hitendra Wadhwa: That was powerful. You know, it reminded me of a story that I heard in my class just earlier this week from a student. When you were talking about the working-class identity and how to think of it more as a shaper in a way that sort of defines and shapes values and takes you to kind of like the right powerful place. 

You know what one might otherwise see as a disadvantage, let's say, you know, and how do you see it in a different light. And so, this student talked about how he said he grew up. He was very short, and he said, like, I was surrounded by really tall friends. And this one time we were able to go and see, see this big game? What is the baseball team here? And, you know, the Yankees. I said we’re to see the Yankees. And he said, like, after that, we want to collect autographs. So, we were out there waiting for the players to come on. 

And then there's one player who comes out and he's like, very well regarded, very well known. He was the shortest player in the league. And he said that this guy, spots me out and he asks the security to open up the cordon and actually let me in. 

Then he talks to me for like ten minutes and asked me about my background, my school and everything. And then before he lets me go back to my friends, he says, you and I, he says, you know, we're very blessed. And I looked at him like, well, what does he mean? We are very blessed because I can see one thing we have in common is that we are short compared to my friends towering over me. 

And he said that we have, at an early stage in life, had the opportunity to really navigate through certain social and other challenges and to take on certain things to the mental strength, the mental tenacity, and resilience that we have built. But these guys still need to build. You know, that's going to really help you all through your life. I remember that.


Paul Ingram: So, yeah, I'm thinking now about a conversation I had when I published this article. I had lots of lovely conversations with people who reached out to me and talked about their own experiences. 

And I did a really impactful phone call with someone who just reached out in that way, who in some ways is very different from me. She was a woman from the Caribbean, but she connected over this kind of discussion of social class. And one of the things that she shared that really resonated with me was that she said, well, you know, I can't use the language I grew up with. And she didn't mean English. She was a native English speaker, but she couldn't use the way of describing things and the families and things like that because it would be out of place in the global organization she was part of. That really resonated with me. I often think, oh, you know, where I come from in a GM town in Ontario, we would have said this, but I can't say that. And here it would be really stepping in it. But then I also thought that people who know multiple languages, it's actually a resource for creativity. 

This is literally true. And here this person and I within English have two different dialects that are coming from backgrounds and that we've had the chance to kind of recognize that and hopefully turn that into an opportunity. So, I like that way of thinking. And, you know, it's I think very much in the spirit of, you know, the same thing we said about values, I think we could say with elements of identities. I think they're really important to recognize. I think that they're most useful to us when we use them in a non-exclusionary way.


Hitendra Wadhwa: So far, so beautiful, thank you. And that was a great story to end our conversation with. Any final just guidance you want to give our audience as we bring this conversation to closure, folks. Thank you for staying with us during this course. And thank you so much if possible. 


Paul Ingram: I’d like to say to everybody, including the many old friends I see here, that I'd love to continue to hear about your journeys with these topics, your own experience, the way you've used some of the things we may have learned together. It's incredibly satisfying for me. And in that spirit, I'll just mention that I got a real boost yesterday. 

I won't say the name of the person, but the person is on this call that I went to my office for the first time in three months and there was a card waiting for me, a New Year's card in the shape of a champagne bottle that somebody had written, somebody hadn't seen a few years written a lovely sentiment and I looked for that email. I couldn't find it, but I'll say a thank you to that person here and in the same spirit to say, I'd love to hear from any and all of you.


Hitendra Wadhwa: Yeah, so true. So true. I think all of us really thrive on those connections. You have such a heartfelt connection with your audience, Paul, and I'm so grateful that you shared that sweet moment with us from yesterday and whoever it is, I want to thank you for doing that outreach. 

It means, of course, a lot to Paul, but means a lot to all of us, recognizing that we have these gifts and these connections with all of you. So, thank you so much, Paul. It's been a great joy to have you with us. I'm grateful for all the wonderful work you're doing, the path you're on, the growth that you're pursuing. Both for yourself but more importantly, you're going to help offer to all of us as well. And I look forward to having you back here, intersections as well.


Paul Ingram: It's a real pleasure. It's so good for me to have this conversation. And thanks to everybody who joined us.


Hitendra Wadhwa: Thank you all. We will see you soon, and you'll come back and get an announcement from me in the next couple of weeks for our next Intersections. Until then, Godspeed. Take care!

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