Wednesday, August 5, 2009
What is 'adding value'?
I just realized I have no idea what that statement means even though it is pretty much the implicit force behind the business world. Every business activity is an attempt to 'add value' - from company mergers all the way down to a person showing up to work. here's the problem with it: it's calculated from a monetary perspective. the implicit question is 'how does what i'm doing make myself and others more rich?'
That seems all well and good at first glance, but lets play out an example: 2 housewives, each taking care of their own child. This is done for free (clearly) by both people and both are able to tend most appropriately to their own kids.
Now imagine a swap - each woman decides to take care of the other's children, and each receives the same rate of $20K/year from each other. According to the business world, everyone is richer under this scenario (GDP rises) and both women are adding tremendous 'value' compared to the other option.
There is something wrong with a system that applauds such a scenario. We see this again and again all over the world - sports players can act however they want as long as they perform ('add value') on the field and thus make everyone money, companies can treat the environment however they want as long as they create surplus value for their customers, etc.
My goal is to personally operate under a different idea of adding value - switch the question to 'how does what i'm doing make myself and others more happy?' The attempt to not correlate 'rich' with 'happy' means i'm more likely to smile, open doors for people, generally make life a more pleasant experience for myself and others even though none of those activities does a thing to bring more money into life.
cynics say 'but you don't know what makes others happy! you DO know what makes others rich' - if you don't know the path to the right answer and know the path to the wrong answer, does that mean you should choose the wrong answer?
is a smile 'adding value'? YES ... i'm going to start with that :)