The struggle between value and worth

I have, over the years, carried out thought experiments and written extensively about the idea of how we actually generate that immaterial, invisible, intangible and yet all too-keenly felt notion of value.

My focus is, usually, on marketing and business, ethics and branding, goods and services but the principle is the same across anything we think might be worth something. The moment something has value, it has worth and if it has worth it becomes an indelible part of the fabric of our world which means it then goes on to inform our culture, ideas, beliefs and the way we learn to carry our relational exchanges with each other.

Because value is, mostly, a psychological perception of what something might be worth it becomes open to artificial manipulation which then goes on to determine part of the dynamic that drives our inter-relations as people.

Across the world different companies, startups and businesses work to explore and maybe reinvent the way we value what they do. Governments are also using the means at their disposal to explore the same space which usually means they use the one unit of measurement of value we can all, more or less, agree upon: money.

Money does more, of course than just measure, however imperfectly, value. It measures trust as well our perception of how the world works. Because money is linked to trust which is linked to our perception of how the world functions and how we fit in it, it becomes a relatively universal tool for looking at how we actually live as well as the means through which we can address some of our deeper societal issues.

Wealth can indeed affect both our internal mental models and our behavior. As expected we have the means to calculate the worth of money but not how it determines value. Our philosophies point to some aspects of this but fail to agree to one unified approach probably because they may not quite be able to reconcile the deeper psychological issues associated with money that cloud the picture.

Historically we’ve tended to focus our thinking on money and wealth and their impact because that is much easier to quantify than what is going on behind someone’s eyes. Money is part of modern society and while we debate to what extent it should be dominant what we are really asking between the lines of questioning is how should we calculate worth? How should we value things that are of value to us?

Hidden in all this questioning is our struggle to understand how to value people. Arguably how we actually value each other and how we learn to form social groups that have some kind of cohesion are things that are so old they should, by now, come easy to us. Evidently, because we ask so often, they do not.

So where are we? What do we do? I can here, obviously, speak only for myself. But seeing how I am neither very unique nor very special I am hopefully speaking for many of us when I say that the value we place on the individual in general and each other in particular should be something we feel which then makes it something we are willing to put time and effort into.

I know you’ve spent money (and valuable time and effort) making sure that there is coffee and donuts, croissants, cookies and chocolate cake. Things that make each Sunday worth a lot more. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.