I have a new talk that I’m beginning to get a handle on called “Creating Value in the 21st Century.”
It’s based around the idea of pushing our culture to see value beyond antiquarian measurement systems like the GDP or the DOW and move towards the inclusion of social and connection value systems that the new culture paradigm is establishing. For instance, the value of the United States as a country is still measured in the GDP, or the Gross Domestic Product, and as long as that number is going up our value as a society is as well. For reference it is defined as ‘the total value of goods produced and services provided in a country during one year.’
Adding to that, there is a formula where the actual GDP number itself derives. Investopedia lays it out in the the following way:
GDP = C + G + I + NX
C is equal to all private consumption, or consumer spending, in a nation’s economy, G is the sum of government spending, I is the sum of all the country’s investment, including businesses capital expenditures and NX is the nation’s total net exports, calculated as total exports minus total imports (NX = Exports – Imports).
(For more detail click here)
I am not an economist however, I understand that as an economic indicator in and of itself there remains popularity in the GDP because it deals with not just the value of what’s sold but also of the materials that go into whatever it is that is sold. So, theoretically the entire supply chain is accounted for.
If we take that snap shot and use it as the tell tale lens for a peoples overall health as a nation I propose there is something very flawed about that because it doesn’t take into account all the subtle, spiritual, inspirational, thought provoking and peer to peer work that most of us our doing on any given day. Therefore, with all of our insanely amazing ability to think, inspire and grow ourselves into these increasingly complicated biological connection machines there has to be a system of measurement that goes beyond just rudimentary manufacturing and sales variables that make up things like the GDP.
Let’s take the example of a favorite yoga teacher within your community. Let’s say your specific community and friend pool has a yoga teacher that is everyones favorite. His or her regular classes are usually packed and the feeling that is felt when leaving the class is commonly experienced to be ecstatic, inspired and transformational. For the sake of this example let’s say that there are 50 people who are in each class 4-5 times a week and of those 150 are unique (the other 50 being repeats). Those 150 people go out into the world completely changed people and take that change into their own individual lives. It’s without question, they are better teachers, parents, workers, lovers and friends all as a result of this one yoga teacher. Therefore the exponential effect that this one person has on the endless touch points of the 150 students is enormous and unmeasurable. If you really think about it, this yoga teacher may indirectly effect thousands of lives. Literally. That is value. That is real, tangible, un-esoteric value that makes the fabric of our society a better place. Yet, this person is often ignored as a value stake holder unless he or she creates a business around it.
Let’s look at another person. Let’s make it up and just say this person is the CEO of a successful pen company. Plugging in the variables lets determine that the pen company is in the US, does not outsource manufacturing, has been profitable for the last several years and employs around 300 people. Certainly, employment is good because it allows the worker to earn money that can provide for food, gas and various living expenses. Thus the town that the pen company is headquartered experiences value because of local tax revenue and steady employment for many local families. Because we’re assuming the pen company is profitable that means the CEO is wealthy as is credited for stimulating the GDP and might be heralded as a powerful and valuable person because of his or her ability to guide the success of the company. That CEO may rise to fame and fortune because he or she has managed to create a financial eco system that makes good on the American dream. These are the heroes of our society – take Jack Welch or Henry Ford for example.
When comparing and contrasting the two people and their function in society I’m sorry but I do not see the pen company CEO as providing more value than the amazing yoga teacher. It’s just that the value of the pen company can be measured so specifically and with great precision that we have gotten in the habit of only looking at value this way. This is flawed. The yoga teachers value, while not instantly measurable, provides for healthier, more compassionate, stable and inspired people which when trickled out into the world is certainly very powerful.
One may ask – well…if you had no pen company then the workers could have no money to take the yoga class! True! But if you had no yoga teacher then the worker wouldn’t be nearly as good of a worker thus productivity at the pen company would be down.
There are many more examples that I can illustrate. Many of which go beyond employment mechanisms and roles and stretch out into more nebulous realms like social media and media. More on those in follow ups to this post.
The point is that I think we need to stop and re calibrate our overall value systems. I don’t propose we do away with gigantic pillars of the industrial age but I do propose we integrate new thinking and consider new combinations of system indictors as we move into the future.
(Thank you Douglas Rushkoff and Joi Ito for inspiring me on the topic of value)