Choosing A North Star: Defining Your Values And Guiding Your Team To Greatness
When you look up “choosing your North Star” on Google, you’ll be bombarded with article upon article filled with stale business vocabulary about “growth” and “increasing performance.” To many companies, the North Star comes to them in the form of very metric-y sounding metrics, which can look anything like “generate X amount of money” to “cultivate X number of daily users.” If they hit the mark, they’re right on track with their North Star journey, following that shining light right to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
I bring this up, not to add confusion, but to set a baseline for what I’m not talking about (just in case you thought you already knew, smarty-pants.)
If you know anything about Think, you’ll know that we find our motivation in people – our culture, our clients and how we impact each other every day. So when it comes to defining a North Star, we take a much more holistic approach.
In a Thinker’s vocabulary, a North Star is a value that drives us forward and inspires us to innovate, create and do our very best work.
And hopefully, the “increase revenue and client base by X percent” will follow.
A North Star is a value that drives us forward and inspires us to innovate, create and do our very best work.
We Chose Our North Star Together
Monday meetings are for bagels, coffee and deep conversations. Over the course of an hour, our team broke into groups to discuss what we thought our shining light word could be. What word would embody the kind of culture we wanted to create, the kind of work we wanted to do and how we wanted to feel every day when we walk through our fourth floor office doors?
Through laughs, debates and a bit of back and forth, we landed on our shining star word: Freedom.
Now let me tell you what that means for us as a team.
A Personal Perspective On Finding Your North Star
When I was a kid we used to take a family trip to North Carolina every July. Among the stacks of memories that fill my mind from those golden summer weeks – barefeet in cold mountain creeks, fresh blueberry pancakes and wood paneled rooms that smelled (just a little) like moth balls – one takes on a different shape inside my brain.
Most of my memories from this time are soft and gooey, like handfuls of little marshmallows rolling around inside my skull. But a few of my memories from this time have edges. Not sharp enough to raise a complaint, but just pointed enough to elbow themselves into the folds of my brain, as if to say “Enough with the blueberry pancakes– this is more important.”
My family… we would go stargazing.
Deep, deep in the mountains, away from the flooding lights of the city, we would wade through galaxies of shimmering lightning bugs and look up to see the swirling sea of molten space rock above. These are the memories with edges. These were the first times I’d feel the weight of existence fold its tired wings and land on my bony shoulder.
I remember thinking I was a part of something timeless, picking out the constellations my ancestors had sewn together and named. Visions of Orion, Hercules and, among the sea of shining stars, the Little Dipper with the North Star at the tip of its handle, guiding lost travelers through the ages. When I look at the stars, still to this day, I feel connected to the centuries upon centuries of humans who gazed up at them before me.
Inspirationally try-hard as it may seem, our team often works in a similar manner to the people who ideated the constellations years and years ago. At Think, we dream and tell stories aloud, connecting thoughts and ideas that lead us to the idea. In this case, our North Star. Just like the points that make up the Little Dipper, every beautiful word that was pitched in the process of choosing our team’s North Star still lives above us. They are not gone. In fact, they are vital.
Without the rest of our ideas acting as a map, our North Star would have been nearly impossible to find. “Innovation,” “expansive,” “growth” and “opportunity,” every idea, all pieced together into a glistening constellation. Without them, we could never have found our way to “freedom.”
In the same way that looking at the real stars connects me to my own humanity, our figurative North Star connects us to each other– remembering the conversations, creativity and vulnerability expressed while sharing all those other words, winning and losing our little debates with equal enthusiasm and ultimately creating the map that will lead us forward into the coming year.
Focusing On Freedom In 2022 At Think
Freedom is an oxymoron in action. Knee-knockingly terrifying and wonderfully invigorating, freedom empowers us with both the boldness AND security to dream awesomely, innovate courageously and wander into the unknown. It’s scary. It’s worth it. It’s the world’s largest blank canvas, a field to dance in, a space to unleash your child-like curiosity and the confidence to fail with grace.
Cultivating freedom is not an accident– in fact, we work together to create space for it. When we walk forward with freedom, we give each other the power to pursue projects without barriers and pioneer without permission. It’s the first step on the road to where we want to go and an essential ingredient in all things we aim to create.
Moving forward with freedom in 2022 is up to us. It’s a choice we all get to make when we say “yes and” to the strange and “wait, why?” to the tried and true.
Only when we decide to say “to hell with convention” can we really lift the floodgates and let the water rush out into uncharted territory. And who knows– maybe there’s a sea of flowers waiting to be watered over there.