Most businesses still measure value they deliver by profit. Does the concept of value need to evolve with the onset of purpose-driven business and attention economy?
In most businesses today, the value the company delivers to their customers is still measured by profit. If the profits are good, they are doing well. If the profits are low, they are not. It’s a simple game, easy to understand and scale. It works.
In tech, especially in the last 10 years, another kind of measure started to emerge. The free social media platforms couldn’t measure value directly with profit. The profit came from another source — from the suppliers or advertisers. We started to measure attention. How much time do users stay on our platform? How often do they come back? What do they interact with?
These companies slowly figured out, that if you maximise attention, you can sell that attention to someone else. Instead of playing just one game, that of profit, they play two games. Maximising attention on the one end and maximising profit on the other.
If that sounds a little off balance.. well, it is. Imagine what happens, if we only measure attention and profit? If that’s really the only two things by which we make decisions, how can we ever do anything other than optimise for those two?
What if our customers wellbeing is at odds with maximising attention? Or if our country’s integrity is at odds with advertising revenue? We already know which one wins. This way of building products is a recipe for unintended consequences, around things that matter most (but don’t have money attached to them).
How do we move forward? Our concept of value needs to evolve once again. It needs another layer to it. First profit, then attention, then… ?
As an industry, we’re still at the beginning of this conversation. Everyone uses different words for it — empathy, authenticity, values, purpose. It’s easy to get confused, misinterpret them, turn them into a buzzword. Easy to use them up and then go back to the familiar way of doing things. But this is a global project and every company will have to find an answer. And the project itself is actually really simple — to make business human.