The Five C’s

At Redbubble our culture is built on values; what we call the 5Cs: Creativity, Courage, Commitment, Accountability and Compassion. I think of them as a balanced set.

The most obvious is creativity which is celebrated at the heart of everything we do. It’s part of us…Creativity is the first value of Redbubble.

The most obvious is creativity which is celebrated at the heart of everything we do. It’s part of us. Creativity is demonstrated through the website, through having artists in residence at Redbubble offices, and even in ways that one might not necessarily think require creativity, like the design of our investor briefings . Creativity is the first value of Redbubble.

The second value is courage, because courage is the enabler of action. Typically it’s fear that stops a person from acting on a creative impulse. Having the willingness to put yourself out there takes courage. We’re aspirational, and to aspire requires courage. Building Redbubble into a company of enduring value, on a global scale, requires courage throughout the whole company.

The problem with those two values, if left unchecked, is that they can create ‘loose cannons’. People can be very creative and very courageous while not necessarily pushing in the right direction. This is where commitment and accountability come in as they balance these values with an obligation to be accountable to others and committed to the mission. It’s no good showing that you’re creative and courageous in some random way, because that’s not committing to the mission or showing accountability to the company or the community.

The way we demonstrate compassion includes compassion for ourselves as well. We want our team to be sufficiently nurturing of themselves over time.

And then there’s compassion which is the glue that holds it all together. Compassion is the capacity to take another person’s point of view while also having their best interests at heart. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you will share their view or take the action they want you to take, but that you will genuinely think about their interests over the longer term. The way we demonstrate compassion includes compassion for ourselves as well. We want our team to be sufficiently nurturing of themselves over time. A simple example is meditation, because to meditate in a consistent way is an act of self-compassion that can ground a person. So we offer daily meditation sessions for our employees. Regular exercise is another obvious one. They’re not duties, they’re acts of self-compassion that are encouraged at Redbubble.

Some organisations define their values by their mission. Service organisations, for example, might say that they value client service in some form or other, but our values don’t specifically relate to a strategic objective. They’re all about behaviors and the way we work together. The challenge is making sure that our culture is open enough to embrace change and be adaptable. As we grow and new people join the organisation, those people will contribute to an evolving culture. The values that we hold are sufficiently open that we can recruit people who share our values, without having to define culture in a narrow or constraining way. Our values are part of our dialogue, but we’ve tried to avoid trivialising them or turning them into slogans; they’re more seen as providing an overall direction.

Overwhelmingly our values are personal drivers, in that they’re not to be weaponised or used against others. They’re not performance evaluation tools, but rather used for self-reflection. It’s not for me to judge a colleague as not being compassionate. It’s actually for me to think about my own compassion. It’s not for me to say others are not showing enough creativity, it’s for me to ask whether I’m showing enough creativity. As the leader I strive to embody the 5Cs and use them for my own internal journey, bringing them with me to work, everyday.

Martin Hosking is the CEO and co-founder of Redbubble