Value is one of those terms that we slip so routinely into our narratives that it’s easy for it to become invisible. And yet, it’s fundamental in every aspect of our lives. What we value goes a long way to determining who we are.
Before the current global difficulty, notions of value had been taken over largely by business. Shareholder value. Added Value. Retained value. Hard measures of extrinsic worth. Financial wealth.
Now, the real, deeper meaning of value is rising to the surface, buoyed up by what feels like an existential issue. Who we value more than what we value.
The notion of “key worker” is giving a refreshing perspective on value. Doctors, Nurses, Teachers, Bin Collectors, Shop Assistants. Not much sign of hedge fund managers, HR managers, Advertising Managers.
Whilst every single one of us is uniquely valuable, at times like this it is the ones who put themselves out, and at risk, to look after others that stand out.
It’s also true I suspect that if we look at how we reward key workers, we take advantage of their commitment. A case where value and values sit at odds with each other.
Extensive research has shown that the easiest way to demotivate someone who has a vocation for what they do is to tie them in to performance based appraisal and reward systems.
We have done this to teachers, doctors, nurses, and many others who do what they do because it meaningful to them, and routinely risk themselves in service of that.
We are paying givers poorly in a system that reward takers. If that doesn’t shame us right now, it should.
What we will go through for the next few months gives us an opportunity to reflect on this, and address it.
Clever investment managers will find a way to profit from this crisis, but it’s probably not best to call them when you get the virus.
We can do better than this.
Value and Values are different.