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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH

I got to preach about the meaning of value to the future business elite of the Netherlands. Nice work when you can get it. Read it on page 6 in the fall/winter issue of Nyenrode Now. Or below…

thethinkerFOR WHAT IT’S WORTH
By Steve Korver

‘Price is what you pay, value is what you get,’ the financier Warren Buffet once observed when asked for the meaning of value. When mere mortals are posed the same question, we tend to come up with repackaged clichés: ‘It’s all relative’, ‘Value is in the eye of the beholder’, ‘Everything is worth nothing without your health’… In short, value appears to be a rather random construct. And recent global financial disasters can largely be explained in terms of people and institutions being much too arbitrary – or plain tricky – in how they establish ‘value’. Now much of the world is left wondering what it actually means.

Happily, philosophers have sweated for millennia about the concept. Plato made the distinction between ‘instrumental value’ (something that can be used to get something else, such as cash, gold and real estate) and ‘intrinsic value’ (something that is worth having in itself, such as friends, family and a sense of home). Currently, many explain the current economic and environmental realities in terms of our nasty habit of overemphasizing the instrumental over the intrinsic. It is certainly impossible to deny that there has been a hidden price to many human activities. There’s some truth in saying: ‘The only time you know the true value of something is when you lose it.’

Many things blur the line between the instrumental and the intrinsic. A common example is a green, wild and dynamic natural ecosystem which has obvious intrinsic value in its beauty, but can also be taken apart into resources of instrumental value. Another example is an education. Studying can expand one’s mind to a world of possibilities but it can also aid you in getting a well-paid leadership position. If you manage to balance the two, voila: you are, or could be, a successful entrepreneur.

Information, partnerships, networks, diversity and sustainability… they’re all things that have added value from the way they can surf the wave between the intrinsic and the instrumental. Perhaps it would be wiser for us to bank more on those things that don’t qualify to be locked up in a bank.

The final word, for human value, is for the writer F Scott Fitzgerald. He advised: ‘What we must decide is how we are valuable, rather than how valuable we are.’ Perhaps there’s even value in clichés.

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Posted in Uncategorized 5 years, 11 months ago at 4:15 pm.

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