5 Ways to Expand How We Think About Value in a Boost Economy

by cv harquail on November 14, 2012

It can be hard to convince certain “business” people that it actually makes sense to conduct their business in a generous, boosty way that creates opportunity for others.

The mainstream business conversation has remained so wedded to the notion that ‘price’ accurately captures ‘value’, and to the belief that financial goals trump other kinds of goals, that businesses and communities of commerce who don’t share these views are called “quaint” or “naive” or even “not real business”.

These different businesses are not naïve. They’re on the leading edge.

By operating in a world where the very definition of “value” is complex and expansive, these business are motivated to increase all kinds of value, for themselves, for their business partners, and for their communities.

To understand how businesses are creating ways to boost each other as they build their own business, I’ve been looking more closely at less-conventional ideas of ‘value’ and trying to identify some of the key features of this more empowering perspective.

The conversation about value is complicated, since human efforts to define value go back to the beginning of time.  I’m not sure I’ve sorted everything out yet, but I ‘ve started to distill come basic themes. Here, I want to toss out some ‘ideas so far’ and get your reaction to them. If anything intrigues you, shoot me an email or comment below. Here goes…

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Expanding How We Think About Value

In a boost economy, what is considered ‘value’ is defined much more broadly than in conventional economics. This broader definition of value helps us see what’s motivating our participation, because we can see interdependencies and priorities that are guiding our choices.

When these interdependencies are made clearer, decisions that seem suspect from the perspective of profit or efficiency are more accurately understood as wise choices that maximize a whole range of values, for a whole range of participants.

Five Ways To Think About Value in a Boost (E)conomy

1. Value is Diverse: There are many kinds of ‘value’, from financial/instrumental value to emotional/symbolic value, and all of these diverse kinds of value matter.

2. Value is Thick: These different kinds of value are entwined with each other. Instead of being in single strands or chains, these diverse kinds of values are stacked, nested, embedded, and fused with each other into layers of value that are “thick”.

3. Value is Emergent: Value comes from the work we do together. We co-create value.

4. Value is Abundant: In addition to there being many kinds of value, there is also more value than what we conventionally recognize. The sheer abundance of value makes it hard to account for, hard to claim, and hard to capture.

5. Not all Value Can Be Claimed. We can’t build metrics and accounting procedures to figure out who created the value, who gets credit for it, or who owns it. Some value escapes our efforts to capture it, and becomes ‘free range’ value – there for anyone’s use or enjoyment.


There’s more to Value than we typically think

A Boost economy takes a different approach when it comes to identifying ‘what is valuable’. That means that we think differently about what any member or the economy ought to be creating, exchanging, or maximizing.

While a conventional economy wants to maximize the values of money and utility, a boost economy aims to create and exchange a whole range of values. These values include money and utility, certainly. They also include intangible values like goodwill, trust, beauty, and integrity, as well as experiences or ‘states of being’ like joy, delight, and love.

Here’s a bit more about the first feature of value –

1. Value is Diverse

Consider the many and vaired kinds of Value exchanged at LoveWithFood.

In the boost economy created around the business LoveWithFood, the hub organization LWF created financial value by getting product samples from the manufacturer to the customer – providing a service to each one that they were willing to pay for and making a financial profit from that service. Money was one value.

LWF also created less tangible social value for manufacturers by selecting them for their gourmet boxes and thereby positioning their products socially as ‘gourmet’ foods.

For customers, LWF helped to generate additional value in the form of knowledge, as each customer received recipes, instructions, and an expanded repertoire of ingredients they now knew how to use in their cooking.

Finally, the families and friends of LWF customers received the value of delicious food, lovingly prepared, that provided both physical and emotional sustenance.

It’s not that these additional kinds of value are missing from a conventional marketplace. We are told that the value of these values gets rolled up into the price that the market charges for things. Except that price, cost and profit never have and never can account for diverse, thick, emergent, abundant, free-range value that we generate, or that we seek.

What’s different is that in a boost economy, we explicitly recognize that these additional kinds of value are just as important as financial value.

By recognizing these additional kinds of value, a boost economy makes it easier for us consider how our individual, organizational, and community activities generate and distribute these values while we also pursue financial value. And, it helps us recognize if we are making financial value so important that we are costing ourselves all sorts of other qualities and experience that are fundamentally just as important as money.

The Value of Seeing That Value is Diverse

When we see that value is multiple and diverse and when we recognize more kinds of value, we are able to take financial value off of its pedestal. We see it in the context of other values that are ALSO important to us.

We realize that pursuing these other kinds of values along with financial value can make us happier, more motivated, more generative, and more productive in surprising ways.

Pursuing these multiple values makes the whole economy grow—not just in terms of more of any single value like money or product, but also in terms of more breadth in the types of value that we generate.

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Next up, some ideas about Thick Value. Stay tuned.

 

See also:

Is your organization flourishing or withering?
The “New” Crisis of Meaning?
Your Authentic Social Network: The Identity Graph

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