- Standard of Business
- Producing Real Value
- The Harming of Others
- Directed Passion and Hard Work
- The Handshake
- Misdirection and Deception
- Partnerships of Trust
- Amorality of Money
- Money: A Means, Not an End
- The Great Liege Lord: Greed
- Human Relationships, Not Numbers
- Losing with Honor
- The Trap of Zero-Sum Thinking
- Align or Die!
- Creating Shared Stakeholder Value
- Capitalism: The Powers of Good and Evil
- Guarding Growth
“It is my responsibility to produce real value, not merely the appearance thereof.”
We now live in a transient world, a world that is constantly changing around us. Whether we like it or not, it washes over us, pulling us down a never ending path of change (and hopefully improvement).
In what can feel like a Darwinian nightmare, many feel totally and completely beholden to the Innovator’s Aphorism: Change or Die!
It’s really not that bad.
Actually, we are living in a day and age of exciting changes, expansion in learning and amazing technological advances. At one point in history, it took decades or centuries for meaningful changes to occur. Now, it feels as if yesterday’s dreams are literally tomorrow’s realities.
The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.
~ Alan Watts
Still, it feels like there’s something missing, and I believe it’s the tradition of craftsmanship. In some ways, we are losing it.
A Tradition of Craftsmanship
For my growing-up years, my father was a general building contractor. He not only built new homes, but also did many remodeling jobs. Many happy hours were spent by his side working on that days project. Some days were dirty, some were very cold. However, at the end of the day, I was able to look and say, “I did that”.
Twenty-five years on, I’m still able to drive by certain homes and say to myself, “I helped build that. See, it still stands, and protects a family from the cold, wind and rain.”
That’s not the case for many of my projects that came later in my career. In the technology realm, it’s common for projects to have a relatively short lifespan, measured in only a matter of a few years sometimes. Many projects are started with the full knowledge that in a decade’s time the work will be sacrificed on the alter of technological improvement, never to see the light of day again except in the memories and résumés of those who worked on the project.
Now, this isn’t to say such projects don’t have real value. They do. It’s just that that value is transitory in nature. While my masters thesis was groundbreaking when it was done, it’s now been far surpassed by other technologies and would no longer be the correct approach.
It’s our thinking that’s important here. It is far too easy to fall into the trap of not doing one’s best, of producing valueless value (or at least sub-par value). The consumerist environment encourages such behavior through its use-then-dispose attitude.
It’s short-term thinking versus long-term thinking, or better put: It’s sacrificing long-term value for short-term gains.
We tell ourselves it doesn’t matter. What we are doing isn’t going to matter tomorrow, yet alone next week or next year.
But it does matter, if for no other reason than the soul.
Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.
~ Swami Sivananda
But, it’s more than just an individual thing.
When organizations consciously (or sub-consciously) decide to trade long-term real value for transient, short-term gains, there’s a cost that’s going to have to be paid. Unfortunately, that cost is often either unrecognized, mentally minimized or entirely ignored.
There are a number of forms this decision making can take in terms of trading real value for the mere perception of value.
- Change to inferior materials
- Focus on packaging over content
- Marketing unbound by reality
- Variance between internal and external messaging
- Fail to provide adequate ongoing support
- Lack of important disclosures
There are many others, and I’ve kept these purposefully vague. Unfortunately, this is not a new phenomenon. One need only look at the history of advertising to realize a certain segment of the business world has truly believed in the concept of caveat emptor.
That approach is wrong. It is destructive. It is outdated.
I think a great example of this an insight into Microsoft’s IPO, as related in Jim Collins excellent book Great by Choice. Entrepreneurs tend to be positive by nature—sometimes too much so, as they can create their own rose-colored world. IPO underwriters deal with this all the time. However, in Microsoft’s case, things were different.
But instead of encountering an overly optimistic entrepreneurial leader who painted a rosy picture of unstoppable success, they met DOCTOR DOOM. Steve Ballmer, then a vice president, reveled in coming up with scenario after scenario of risk, peril, danger, death, crippling attack, misfortune, and catastrophe.
Now, this is not to say one should always be doom-and-gloom. No, that’s not helpful. However, being honest with oneself and others about the true reality of the situation is. Certainly, the underwriters were given all of the glowing, exciting prospects, as well. They just weren’t only given the good possibilities. They had a balanced picture. This allowed Microsoft to create a prospectus that required very few changes from the SEC.
Doing it right the first time saved a great deal of expensive, and helped to shield Microsoft from any possible lawsuits from investors feeling they’d been defrauded in some manner.
Basically, there was once a time when information was sealed up inside corporations and other organizations, and the gatekeepers of “truth” held the reins over what was allowed in and out.
However, that is changing. The world is becoming an information sieve. Daily it becomes harder to control information flow. Hourly, it becomes more difficult to saw one thing and do or be another.
I have no desire to waste my time looking for a patsy to buy lies when I can spend it instead to create something of real value. One builds society—the other’s a parasite.
As both individuals and organizations, let’s not wait for circumstances to force us to be transparent and the producers of real value. Let us take the ethical road now… today.