The value mantras of Atomic Object arose from a common understanding that lived in our collective heads and daily interactions. For example, it was during an interview debrief, when we were deciding whether or not to extend an offer, that I first heard Patrick Bacon observe that the candidate really didn’t seem to “give a shit” about his own growth and mastery. (No offer was extended.) Patrick’s comment seemed to me the perfect way to summarize our desire to work only with people fully committed to their projects, customers, careers, peers and company. I first used this phrase publicly in a keynote talk for GLSEC in 2006.
I formally named our values in 2009 after a discussion with Jeff Patton. When describing our somewhat lengthy Values Atomica document to him, he suggested distilling the ideas it contained into smaller, handier phrases. It was easy to name our first, and perhaps most strongly held mantra: “give a shit”. That name has also given me pause at times. The sentiment could be expressed as “care deeply”; the meaning is close, the wording less controversial and memorable.
Many job candidates respond positively to our first mantra. I generally get a laugh when I use it in a talk, and positive comments afterward. On the other hand, I’ve heard from at least one experienced employee at a largish client of Atomic’s that it makes us seem immature. Therefore, I have to assume there are some potential clients, who I may never talk to, who read or hear Atomic’s value mantras and have a negative reaction.
Using the name of the mantra as it exists internally is consistent with another closely held mantra, namely to “act transparently”. “Give a shit” connotes active participation in life and work, an essential behavior for all Atoms. It thus seems like the right way to describe Atomic. On the other hand, there’s no good to be done by offending people externally.
I’m very curious what GNB readers think. “Give a shit” or “care deeply” — which name would you use in public, and why?