Monthly Archives: May 2010

Betterment

Here’s a slightly more robust-sounding expression of the idea that companies should think about value beyond the tangible stuff:

http://blogs.hbr.org/haque/2010/05/from_business_models_to_better.html

It’s an idea echoed by Adair Turner recently in Prospect magazine, who think the outgoing head of the FSA should be chancellor for his attacks on the “social uselessness” of banks.

The problem both these ideas highlight is a kind of tyranny we have in society today. The tyrant isn’t a person, it’s a single measure: GDP, or growth. Both of these are supposed to bundle up somehow everything that could possibly matter into one number. And provided it’s heading north (in the case of GDP), or in double digits (in the case of growth), everything’s rosy.

What I like about these ideas – apart from the fact that they suggest specific ways the world might be a better place – is that they challenge this single-measure tyranny. Nothing can be a proxy for everything. Over-simplification means things get lost – sometimes, really important things, like happiness or the integrity of community support systems or certain job markets.

We could probably all learn something from the idea that single measures are too blunt.

(Cough *AI* cough.)

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