Values Explorer™

About Values Explorer

Values Explorer™ is a deck of 52 cards, a tool for goal setting … coaching …  student leadership development …  reflecting on personal & organizational values … identity development … self reflection … leadership development … cross cultural exploration … .

Values Explorer

Values Explorer is a beta offering from CCL Labs at the Center for Creative Leadership.

Purchase Values Explorer

Instructions can be found here (basic), and here (more detailed). A guide for using Values Explorer in student development is here. Intro slide show here. (more…)

Values Explorer for Student Leadership Development

IMG_1287The Early Leadership Toolkit features Values Explorer as a versatile tool for engaging students on the topic of personal and shared values. The Toolkit includes a Guide for using Values Explorer to explore a variety of topics. The Guide can be downloaded here.

For example: (more…)

Our second most important asset at CCL Ethiopia

Leadership Explorer tools at our office in Ethiopia.

A heartwarming note below from Aaron White, one of the founders of our office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Aaron calls the Leadership Explorer tools “our second most important asset at CCL Ethiopia.” (See the photo at the bottom for the first!) Thanks Aaron!

I spent the day at CCL Ethiopia’s new office here in Addis Ababa. As I explored our new digs I found three new storage cabinets packed with Explorer tools. Some had square corners, some rounded, but all had been in the hands of dozens, if not hundreds of people.

These Explorer tools get used in every single program here. If we didn’t have these – and our Leadership Essentials – we really couldn’t have been successful here.

Thanks to all of you that brought these in your suitcases, stole them from supply closets, and helped create them!

Aaron White
24 November 2017

Our most important assets are our participants and our faculty! More on the Leadership and Debate Club Program here.

Leadership and Debate Club participants and some CCL Addis Faculty. Photo by Rahel Asefa.

Values Explorer Introductory Webinar (VIDEO)

Webex session links and slides are below:
Streaming recording link
Download recording link

Leading From Within

Thanks to my CCL colleague Bert DeCoutere (IP and Innovation Lead at Center for Creative Leadership) for this description of his new experiential design for Leading From Within.

We worked with the central question: How can I continuously evolve into the leader the future needs me to be?

Leading From Within

The flow of the experience is to use what we have inside us to transform into what the future needs us to be.

We used Visual Explorer to discuss “me as a leader now” and “me as a leader in the future.” We explored four roots of our leadership: personality (Work Place Big 5), experience (Experience Explorer), values (Values Explorer) and identity (social identity mapping). Then we concluded the poster with our transformation journey ‘”from here to there” – using cards from the Transformations deck.

Do my values match my actions?


Here are awesome instructions for using Values Explorer from the Early Leadership Toolkit. Click here

The From Here to There (FHT) Model of Human Development

The From Here to There (FHT) Model frames development as a long-term journey:

FHT model

From Here to There Model applied to a life journey

Starting with:

“Where are you from?”
Origins, identities, communities


“Where are you now (here)?”
Present state, presencing, observation, reflection, assessment


“Where are you going (to there)?”
Toward a desired future state, aspirations, visions, strategies, goals, dreams, and possibilities.


From Here to There: The Young African Leader Initiative (YALI)

Sam Ray has just returned from Kenya where he, Kathy Vaughan and Sam Kasera facilitated a final round of  Leadership and Self-Awareness workshops for USAID’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).

From Here to There with YALI Leaders

From Here to There with YALI Leaders

Approximately 400 leaders from East and Central Africa have now been through this Center for Creative Leadership workshop (Addis Ababa office) in Nairobi.

The two-day workshop was built around the CCL F-H-T Framework. Every module mapped to a part of their life journey:
a) Where I have come from (FROM)
b) Where I find myself now (HERE)
c) Where my team and I are going (THERE)
d) How I got here (FROM to HERE)
e) How my team and I will get there (HERE to THERE).

Participants mapped their learning on the walls in real time, resulting in 400 unique ‘selfies’ of these young peoples’ leadership journeys. The YALI program has offered rigorous, large-scale testing of the From-Here-To There framework and never fails to generate perspective and insight for users.

Dialogue by putting something in the middle

Dialogue is a reflective conversation engaging the multiple perspectives of a number of people to explore assumptions and create new meaning. Create dialogue by putting objects in the middle of amediated conversation. Meaning becomes projected onto the object. Images work very well. You can use photos, art, stories, Visual Explorer and other Explorer tools, mementos, videos, graphics, and so on.

When people get good at this, they don’t need a physical object—they can put a topic (a challenge, a problem, an idea) in the middle.

As the Star Model graphic illustrates, multiple layers of the topic are explored from many angles (multiple perspectives).

Try This (more…)

CCL Collaborates with the European Center for Electoral Support

LBBLogo               European Center for Electoral Support  3

Good news from Barcelona (below) from the European Center for Electoral Support (full story here, and here for the 2012 edition). The ECES has the strategy of supporting “dialogue and mediation for the consensual and inclusive management of political transition and the prevention and mitigation of electoral and political conflict.”


The 2013 edition of the Dealing with Electoral Violence: Leadership and Conflict Management Skills for Electoral Stakeholders took place in Barcelon on 14-18 Octber 2013.

The overall objective of this 2013 edition of the LEAD Training has been to look into ways in which representatives of electoral stakeholders can improve their leadership skills and take on board means for preventing and/or mitigating the escalation of election-related violence and conflict throughout the respective electoral cycles.

The LEAD training is jointly organized with the Center for Creative Leadership: Leadership Beyond Boundaries and the Barcelona International Peace Resource Center. (more here.)

(They post these and other cool photos of the 2012 and 2013 events including use of Visual Explorer, Values Explorer, and Collaboration Explorer, and other CCL Leadership Essentials Tools.)


Leadership Beyond Boundaries and mediated dialogue

Leadership Explorer tools, and especially Visual Explorer, have been key to our Leadership Beyond Boundaries initiative, where they work by putting something in the middle of a creative conversation (mediated dialogue):

quoteImagine our world if we worked to create better leadership. Might we have fewer wars, would there be less hunger and disease, would more people recognize their talents and realize their potential, would we solve problems more creatively and effectively, and would we embrace and leverage the diversity that defines humankind? >> read more about Leadership Beyond Boundaries

Integrating Social Media in Youth Leadership Training

This field report is from Nadja Shashe, team member of the CCL Addis Ababa, Ethiopia office and inventor of the Social Media Station.

YV4P 4

quoteA target group within the Leadership Beyond Boundaries initiative is youth. To get their attention and create a sustainable outreach, our team in Addis Ababa is integrating social media in youth leadership training programs.

One example of this effort is the Social Media Station that we invented for the Youth Voices for Peace project in Nakuru, Kenya.

social media station (more…)

Nuggets of Wisdom from the Early Leadership Toolkit

By Brandi Nicole Johnson

quoteLast month, I had the opportunity to attend LBB’s training on CCL’s Early Leadership Toolkit. I spent 2.5 days learning atoolkit-demo-imagebout CCL’s leadership content, practicing a toolkit module (ie. exercises, lessons, etc.) delivery and critically considering how we could apply what we had gathered in other settings to a population of young people. …

Continue reading this post here

The CCL Early Leadership Toolkit features several Leadership Explorer tools (Visual Explorer, Values Explorer, and Leadership Metaphor Explorer).

Values Exploration: Authentic Leadership Alliance

Thanks to Susan Tardanico for these insightful and detailed instructions for using Values Explorer. These instructions are great for individual, self-guided values exploration, and are a wonderful template for a facilitator or teacher working with a group. Susan knows what she is talking about.

Susan Tardanico is a former senior executive and Officer of Textron, founder and CEO of Authentic Leadership Alliance, and Executive in Residence at the Center for Creative Leadership.

Values Explorer Instructions

Values are what drive and motivate us. We can make better choices when we’re clear about what really matters to us. Values underpin our authenticity and help shape our leadership style.

This exercise is intended to help you “dig deep” and think about your values in a new way.

Obtain the Values Explorer card deck from the Center for Creative Leadership (

When you have at least two hours of quiet time (alone) and plenty of space around you
(a large table or floor space), open the Values Explorer box.

Lay out all the blue cards with the big words on them (Values cards), so you can see all 44
cards at once.

In a separate space (within reach), lay out three of the yellow cards: “Always Valued,” “Often Valued,” and “Sometimes Valued.”

Take the three blank cards (they have blue borders on the top /bottom and white in the middle) and set aside.

Put the remaining yellow cards and the instruction cards back into the box. Disregard them.

Clear your mind and eliminate any feelings of self-consciousness or fear of being judged.
For this process to deliver any benefit to you, you must approach it authentically and truthfully. No one will see how you group things. There are no right or wrong – or good or bad – choices here. The only “bad move” is when you try to be someone you’re not – making choices you think are more socially acceptable or what other people expect of you, regardless of whether they’re true to you.

Read each blue card carefully – the value and its definition. At first you may think certain terms are redundant, but there are nuances that make them different. These nuances are important as you think about what really makes you tick.

After considering the nuances, if you still feel that some are redundant and therefore are confusing you, take the redundant cards “out of play” (put them back into the box) and use the card that best summarizes how you define that particular topic. Try to minimize the number of times you do this, because if you integrate too much into one value and over-generalize, it becomes so amorphous that it loses its meaning and its power to help you make good choices and decisions.

After internalizing and considering the concepts on each of the blue cards, eliminate any
values that don’t matter to you at all. Put those cards back into the box.

Take the remaining cards and divide them into three equally-sized groups based on their relative importance to you. The cards that belong in each group will be placed under the 3 yellow cards so you have a visual separation from one group to another. Group #1 – the values that matter most to you — will go under the yellow “Always Valued” header. Group #2 – the values that are still important, but not as important as Group #1 — will go under “Often Valued,” and Group #3 will go under “Sometimes Valued.” Please do not get hung up on these headers. Just because something is in the third group, it doesn’t mean that it’s unimportant to you. It simply means it’s less important to you relative to the values in Groups 1 and 2. Place each card so that you can see it through the entire exercise.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself frustrated and agonizing over where certain values belong, and/or moving a card from one category to the next and back again. It’s all part of the process. You may be inclined to place more cards in Group #1 than is allowed. Force yourself to make the choice. Think about what really matters to you most. Think about what makes you truly happy, fulfilled and at peace. What are you passionate about? Think about what you value in friends, colleagues and family members. Think about the kinds of behaviors that drive you crazy and that you cannot stand. These are all cues that can help you separate values into the groups. A feeling of ambivalence is also telling – it means that you don’t care about the value as much as others. Put it into group #3 or take it out of play.

At any point in this exercise, if you feel that a certain value is very important to you but isn’t represented on the blue cards, write it on one of the blank cards and treat it as an equal to the blue cards. For example, Harmony (compatibility and agreeability; lack of discord and conflict) is not in the card deck. Neither is Nurturing (needing to be needed; investing oneself in the well-being of another). If you create your own Value card, be sure to include a definition that specifies what the Value means.

Once you have placed all the cards into the three equal (or near-equal, depending upon how many cards you’re working with) groups, take the cards in groups 2 and 3 (Often Valued and Sometimes Valued) and put them back into the box.

Working only with Group 1 (“Always Valued”), narrow it down to your top ten values.
Then, working with the remaining ten cards, select your top five values.

CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve just accomplished something that many people fail to do.
You are now equipped with a very powerful lens through which to evaluate various aspects of your life and the choices you’ve made. And if you stay aware of these core values – and honor them – you can make even better decisions in the future!

Thanks to Susan Tardanico. More information at 

Building and Testing Visual Values Explorer in Somalia

This post comes from Aaron White at Leadership Beyond Boundaries. Aaron is Deputy Regional Director based at the new Center for Creative Leadership office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Here’s our virtual interview with Aaron: (More on contextualizing Visual Explorer at What is the biggest challenge that youth face in Ethiopia?)


We have been prototyping a Visual Values Explorer contextualized for Somalia. This card deck works with low-literacy pastoralist communities to talk about individual and communal values and to create deep dialogue for leadership development and conflict mitigation.

Why Visual Values Explorer ?

The Visual Values Explorer idea originated from a desire to have a card deck that could be used for low literacy populations to discuss personal and communal values and one that could also be used for dialogue creation around a framing question.

Knowing common values helps build empathy for other groups (women, other clans, etc) to empower and reduce conflict.

Why contextualize for Somali People?

Those who are working among the Somali people need tools like this to better implement programs in food security, conflict mitigation, governance, etc. I saw a great need for NGOs to have a tool like this in their work.

I have a camel given to me by a Somali ‘uncle’ –which means I’m forever connected to this group.  I have enjoyed the challenges of working with nomadic Somalis in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia and through that experience

Roughly 5 million Ethnic Somali people live in Ethiopia, but over 12 million Somali people also cover part of Djibouti, the autonomous and rapidly developing Somaliland, the Somalia we know from piracy and war, and North Eastern province of Kenya.  All sharing similar values, language, religion, and livelihoods despite being spread across 5 countries and thousands of miles. The Somali culture is very different from the majority of Ethiopia.  It’s a very egalitarian society as opposed to highly hierarchal

 How was it created?

CCL worked with Desert Rose Consulting whom we often turn to for contextualizing of our tools and methodology.  Thomas Berger, a Swiss social anthropologist who is fluent in Somali, worked for several months to get a set of pictures that represented important, and not important values. Many focus group discussions were held among urban and rural Somalis.  Pictures were tested and modified several times until a working deck of 64 values was formed.

What are the challenges?

Values are not talked about in Somali society, so it was difficult to get to the root of the culture to understand the how the values actually play out.

Low-literacy populations engaged in focus group discussions had a difficult time “reading” or interpreting abstract pictures that were being used in current Visual Explorer decks.  The new cards are easier to interpret and leave less room for arguments over what the picture means.

Participants were acutely critical of seemingly minor issues in the picture.  A picture of a man and two children (which was supposed to represent the value of being a father or of having children) often got the response… “why is this man with his children during the day? Is he unemployed? Why are the children not looking after the goats or in school? Is he in America?”  Because of those issues, pictures had to be very carefully selected so that participants did not get distracted and start arguing over meaning.  In a picture of a teacher (see below), we blurred the words on the black board to avoid arguments over the content of what the teachers is teaching.

 Where to next?

A lot of development money goes unsuccessfully into Somali areas, but we believe leadership may be the lever to improve these programs.  Tools like Visual Values Explorer can help NGO staff to get community buy-in or to create understanding for like values between groups.


Values for Leadership and Sustainability at Multnomah County

Our colleague Darcy Winslow at The Academy for Systemic Change used Values Explorer to create conversations about leadership and sustainability among the executive leadership team in Multnomah County. Excerpts from her field notes and photos are below. Notice the leaning in, engagement and laughter. The cards help by being “in the middle” of the conversation. The acts of handling and sharing the cards, arranging them, talking about them, are all conducive to a more reflective mode of thought. In Daniel Kahneman‘s terms, this is a slower, more deliberate kind of thinking, and may help avoid the errors we make when we think too fast all the time.

Hi Chuck,

I have attached the two slides I used to tee up this exercise [see below] and I hope to get the flip charts that we used to capture where the teams/tables netted out their shared values. There were values with lots of congruity and then some really interesting outliers that provoked  conversation. There were 5 -6 people at each table and it was fascinating to watch the different approaches they took to start the sorting/conversation process! I had them try and rank order the top 5. I had each table read out their top 3. Out of the 19 tables we had two with a perfect match: Cheers all around! One table took the liberty of writing 3 new cards: Cultural Competence, Leadership Styles/ Communication, Equity/ Disparities.

One thing I learned: I need to give them more time to work with this exercise. They have asked for a few of the decks to use themselves. One of their immediate requests is to use these to on-board a new department.



Darcy Winslow is at
Designs for a Sustainable World Collective
Portland, Oregon
The Academy for Systemic Change


United Nations Development Program, Leadership Beyond Boundaries & Values Explorer

Here’s a wonderful update from Steadman Harrison on the United Nations LEAD program developing leadership in Portuquese speaking Africa including “Team in a Box” and Leadership Beyond Boundaries. Featured below in the slide show is the Values Explorer portion of the program–a great sequence of what VE looks like in action. (Slides showing Visual Explorer in action at LEAD are shown under the Visual Explorer tab of this blog.)


Dear friends,

Writing to you at the close of a long day of meetings in Maputo, Mozambique where I’ve been shuttled from European Union Commission to USAID to DFID to local training consultancies to talk about scaling our work through our UNDP partnership in the six Portuguese speaking countries in Africa.  We now have Leadership Essentials translated into Portuguese, French, Amharic, Arabic, and some Hebrew.

A few years ago we talked about the idea of trying to scale our core work out to many more people across language and culture barriers and I am simply writing to tell you that it is taking place at a rapid clip.  We are on an amazing growth curve and the world is starting to take notice.  These are exciting times.  Global Voice of Leadership and now Leadership Beyond Boundaries is really taking off.

Team in a Box™ is a concept that Davida Sharpe and a few of our team at the Center for Creative Leadership worked on a number of years ago. With USAID funding we will be distributing hundreds of Team in a Box™  materials to Public Health teams in the southern region of Ethiopia.  This is just one example of how our tools and methods can be contextualized to help grassroots facilitators change the dynamics of leadership in their own community.

Congratulations to CCL and the Leadership Beyond Boundaries team on these achievements!  Special thanks to our team in Africa – Cheri Baker (intern), Rajan Singh (intern), Hannah Smith (intern), Aaron White, Moses Wawich, Teddy Tadesse, Sissay Abebe, Habtamu Gizaw, Rachel Demiessie, Desalegn Wujira, and our consultancy friends at Desert Rose Consulting in Addis!

Blessings to all of you,

What values are you living by?

Values Explorer in action …

The Center for Creative Leadership partnered with Rotary District 7680 to provide youth in the Charlotte area a powerful youth leadership experience. This was a pioneering project with Rotary to unlock the leadership potential of youth: What would the world look life if more youth had the opportunity to participate in leadership programs? In the photo above the group is using the CCL tool Values Explorer to explore the questions: What values do you live by? What values do you wish to live by?
Contact Joel Wright at CCL for more information.

Introduction to Values Explorer™

Mentor Training for YMCA

The following design was used as part of the YMCA Mentors Training program for the Black & Hispanic Achievers Program in Greensboro, North Carolina. Contact Steadman Harrison at CCL for more information.

Pass out a deck of Values Explorer cards to everyone and give them time to open the cards and look through them. Explain the components of the deck: values cards, blank cards upon which values can be written, and prompt cards (always valued, never valued). Explain that they will need a large space to complete this activity. Finally, explain that the Values Explorer card sort allows people to “put something in the middle” when they are discussing challenging issues—it acts as a kind of bridge. We will be using a lot of activities like this throughout the program.
Use the following directions for the activity:
1. Pull out the following two cards and put them on the table in front of you: Always Valued and Never Valued.
2. Shuffle through deck and choose those values that you Never Value. Place them in pile around the Never Valued card.
3. Shuffle through deck again to look for those values you Always Value. Choose 10 and place them around the Always Valued card.
4. Now, pare those 10 down to 4.
5. Choose 2 that you would like to share with group. [Form a circle and have each mentor bring their two cards to place on the floor in front of them]
6. Look around the circle. What patterns do you see? What values did people choose? [Can discuss any patterns or themes that emerge or have people share the values they chose and why they chose them.]
7. What pitfalls might you run into while mentoring coming from these values? What strengths might you bring?
8. What happens if you are mentoring someone with different values? [Can have participants return to their two piles and choose two cards from the Never Valued stack, return to the circle and discuss what happens if their mentee values those two values].
9. Discuss recognizing and valuing difference. Also, discuss how being aware of the values someone is operating from can help you in framing rewards—giving them the kind of support they need, in their language (The 5 Love Languages)
Can also link to difference in values amongst the generations. Also, can discuss the idea that a value which might first be expressed (like “wealth”) could actually be coming from the same place as a value like “love”—a need to take care of someone’s family.