Our new Prolific Principles

As a remote-first team, we don't get to see each other in person at the best of times. We got together for the first time in 2 years this November, and it was a dramatic change from our twelve-person get together at the end of 2020.

In 2021 we doubled in size and then some, bringing the total number of folks (who we affectionately call Prolificos) to 73 at time of writing. Our talent and people operations teams worked incredibly hard to find amazing people to build Prolific. Now they're here, we care about empowering them to do the best work of their lives, in an environment that allows them to be their full selves.

Building an intentional culture has been a priority since the early days of Prolific. Things have changed a lot this year, we felt it was the right time to review if our values and principles were still serving us as well as they could be. I'm proud to share our brand new Prolific Principles with you, and our thought process behind changing them.

Our Principles

🥇We put the quality of the research first.

Our ultimate goal is to improve the quality of research, data, and decision-making. Everything we do is centred around our mission to facilitate world-changing research. We’re here to improve the way research is done online, so the quality of the output is always front of mind.

🤝 We build trust.

We build trust with each other through responsible actions, honest relationships, and feedback. We build a product that facilitates trust with and between our users. Trust in our data powers our reputation and brand. We act with integrity in everything we do and we value the trust our users have in us.

🌍 We celebrate our differences.

We care deeply about diversity within our team and on our platform. We embrace our differences and are open to being challenged and receiving feedback because a diverse team feeds different opinions and ideas which we use to make better decisions.

🔍 We are deeply curious about solving problems.

Prolific is a complex system, and we're solving problems no one has solved before. This doesn't mean we don't learn from others, but we always aim to get to a first principles understanding. We approach challenges with humility, go deep to understand the problem in its details, and think systematically when solving them.

💪 We are optimistic and find a way.

We’re optimistic about the impact of Prolific and our ability to achieve our vision. We can all influence this outcome by being proactive, taking ownership, making fast decisions, and driving progress. There will be many challenges on the path, but there’s always a way forward.

⏩ We experiment and iterate fast.

We are execution-focused, move with purpose, and look to build momentum. We know that “fast gets good better than good gets fast” so we aim to make progress and make decisions quickly. We have an experimental mindset, which we apply with rigour to make faster decisions, not as a crutch.

Changing our values to principles

We purposefully redesigned our value statements to become principles: rules or beliefs that govern one's behaviour. Stephen R. Covey wrote about the difference between principles and values in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, saying

"Principles are like lighthouses. They are natural laws that cannot be broken."

He goes on to say, "Principles are not values... Principles are guidelines for human conduct that are proven to have enduring, permanent value. They are fundamental."

For a long time we worked according to a set of one-word values prefixed by "we are...". Our intention was to critically examine whether these statements were aligned with our cultural aspirations and if not, change them so they resonate deeply, are easy to understand, and are practically applicable day-to-day. The last thing we'd ever want is for these words to live in a metaphorically dusty employee handbook, untouched and unused. Ideally, they should be integrated with almost everything we do.

Our road to change

The photo contains a Zoom screenshot with some of our Prolificos during a team-bonding activity at our Q3 2021 meetup: the company meeting that started our journey to redesigning our company principles.
As much as we can, we want to involve our Prolificos in our decision-making process. We wanted to gather feedback, talk to as many people as possible, and, from a communication standpoint, make sure changes would resonate with the team.

Every quarter, we host an all-company meeting where we gather as an entire team. Often, we involve everyone in a collective, cross-collaborative exercise - which is exactly what we did when we embarked on redesigning our Prolific principles.

We split up the entire company into 12 discussion groups to get feedback about the previous values, and any suggestions for new principles. This photos is a screenshot of our Notion page detailing the exercise and the groups folks were put into for it.
We split up the entire company into 12 discussion groups to get feedback about the previous values, and any suggestions for new principles.

Following on from that, we formed a working group with the decision-makers that would create the final set of new principles.

Over the course of a few weeks, we met and debated, documenting our thoughts and feedback, external resources, and any strong ideas we had about what our new principles should be. It was great to see such strong opinions from so many in the team, although it was interesting that that the values that were resonating in the team were not always what I would have assumed.

A screenshot of the working document our Principles working group used to come up with the new principles
It soon became clear there were ideas that absolutely needed to be included. There needed to be principles around innovation, growth, and change, diversity and inclusion, moving fast and experimenting, ownership and accountability, and customer-centricity. Lastly, we wanted a principle about trust. I think about what the value used to be (We are trustworthy) and what it is now (We build trust) and I'm excited it is now much more action-driven.

We revealed our new Prolific principles at our first annual 'Prolificon': an all-company in-person meet-up we held in London this year. It was amazing to share these with all of our Prolificos, in real life and we loved how everyone responded to them. It was a real highlight of the year, I feel incredibly grateful to work with such a great bunch!

What's next for Prolific

Prolificos in a sillier moment at Prolificon
As we wind down for 2021 and recharge over the winter holidays, we're still busy integrating our new principles into what we do. We're weaving them into our career pathways (what will be our transparent career progression framework for salary, reward, and recognition), adding them to our feedback tool Lattice, and we will soon be evaluating anyone we interview for roles at Prolific with our new principles.

On a personal note, I stepped into the role of CEO this autumn. I'm excited to approach 2022 with these principles in mind, and look forward to finding new ways to apply them to my work and my life at Prolific. It's been a challenging year, for many reasons, but I'm exceedingly proud of everything we've accomplised and excited about what we'll achieve in the next. Onwards. 🚀

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