Product teams turn to quantitative North Star metrics to shape their product trajectory. When it comes to shaping the ethical trajectory of your product, it helps to have a qualitative North Star metric. That's where the Hippocratic Oath for product teams comes in. Taking a page out of the medical industry, designers ought to think about their own version of the Hippocratic Oath. In contemporary settings, the Hippocratic Oath is not a legally-binding vow for doctors, but more of a prompt that conveys the gravitas of their decision-making and identifies their career priorities.
Blanket Hippocratic oaths can be difficult to translate across different teams or companies, so we encourage teams to brainstorm about their own version in the beginning of their design process. This will help to prime team members to think about ethics from the very get go. The Hippocratic Oath ought to be revisited intermittently. Today, designers are working on tasks with incredibly widespread implications; taking the time to reset and think about core values and how they might manifest in the product is crucial.
The oath will be a series of statements. The statements are all structured with a value, an entity, and an accompanying action. First, come up with 3-5 core values (i.e. autonomy, safety, transparency, etc.). Next, come up with 3-5 entities (i.e. users, society, environment, etc.). Finally, create combinations between the various core values and entities that you have, and pair each combination with 2-3 action statements.
The Hippocratic Oath is meant to be a qualitative North Star, not a legally-binding document. Oftentimes, over the trajectory of product development, the actions that teams will have to take in order to uphold various values for differing entities will change. And that’s okay. When a teams consistently revisit their Hippocratic Oath (we recommend quarterly), they can ensure that their product’s ethical focus stays on target.