Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How we behave shows what our values really are

It is my experience that human beings and human organizations act based on their values. Not Expressed Values - what they say their Values are - but what their values actually are: Operational Values. Typically, values can be determined only by an outsider who deduces them from observations of behavior. Few of us are aware of our values, though we usually know what we would like them to be.

If you want to know Expressed Values, simply ask. Corporations delight in publishing their values on their web sites. People will tell you how they value truth even as they lie, how they value loyalty even as they betray and reward betrayal, and how they value initiative as they punish those who actually take initiative.

Determining Operational (or actual) Values requires observation and experimentation. It is a scientific process of hypothesis (I think X is one of the values of this person/organization) and test by prediction (Since X is a value, in situation A the person/organization will do M.) If the prediction is incorrect, the hypothesis is disproved and must be discarded or revised. If the prediction is correct, the hypothesis is not proved, but it does remain a possibility. Every time a hypothesis passes a test it gains strength, but it can never be proven. (see The Logic of Scientific Discovery by Karl Popper for more on the nature of science vs. metaphysics.)

Postings from the author will be in an order establishing a foundation and building an argument. At least initially.

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