Why Opposites Attract in Value Discovery

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Opposites attract. We’ve all heard the maxim. There are plenty of examples where this is true, from magnetic force to dynamic couples.

I was reminded of this recently while re-reading Zen and thzene Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. A theme in the book is how two opposite mindsets actually attract or complement each other. Pirsig refers to these mindsets as Classical and Romantic. The Classical mindset views the world in terms of structures, logic, and science. The Romantic views the world in terms of emotion, ideas, and possibilities.

Opposites also attract in business value. I’ve had many conversations with sales and marketing where the value of a product or service is portrayed by jumping to either Classical or Romantic thinking:

  • The Classical approach is to look at value with a focus on structures that include quantified and tangible metrics. To the Classical thinker, value is the Return on Investment (ROI), Net Present Value (NPV), or a payback calculation.
  • The Romantic approach dismisses numbers and metrics, saying that value cannot be quantified. Instead, the Romantic favors human emotion, desire, and ideas when looking at value, saying “the value is greater than one particular metric.”

The Whole Picture of Business Value

Value cannot be separated into either Classical or Romantic terms. We have to bring tangible and intangible benefits together to see the whole picture.

This happened recently with one of Ecosystems’ customers. The customer, a large health care provider, needed to convey the value of automating some of its processes. Ecosystems used dollarized explanations (Classical) and non-dollarized explanations (Romantic) of value to convey the benefit that the new automation would provide.

 

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  • Classical/dollarized benefits included increased reporting efficiency, change management efficiency, and HIPAA auditing benefits.
  • Romantic/Non-dollarized benefits revolved around faster diagnostic test results to patients, faster prescriptions to patients, and improved ability for doctors to access patient records. These benefits increase well-being and health, which have value that goes beyond numbers and dollars.

Both perspectives of value were equally critical to showing the entire value of the service.

To gain a whole picture of business value, we need to honor the concrete structures of the Classical while also celebrating the Romantic’s emotional perspective. The maxim is true: in love and value, opposites do attract.


 

Chad Quinn

Chad is the president and co-founder of Ecosystems. For the last 20 years, Chad has led the organization, focusing on helping Fortune 500 companies set up Value Management Offices (VMOs) to quantify, capture, and report on business value. Chad’s passion is to impact the lives of others. At Ecosystems, he focuses on clarifying the impact of investments on business strategy and operations.