The great management philosopher Peter Drucker was almost right.
He wrote, "What the business thinks it produces is not of first importance. What the consumer thinks he is buying, what he considers 'value' is decisive."
It's what the consumer feels she is getting in exchange for her time, attention, and money that is decisive.
Value is determined using an internal feelings calculator.
With simple functions like add and subtract, right and wrong.
And more complex ones like weighing the outcome of one's decision on future achievement, affiliation, and contribution.
Value is a complex and puzzling notion.
Economists can't agree on a definition because it's not an objective concept.
Value is multifaceted.
Value is highly contextual.
Value is subjective.
Value is delivered and imagined contentment, happiness, and self-worth.
Value is about desire.
And whoever develops and delivers the best evolving composite of value, for their particular audience, wins.
We're not rational creatures.
We don't optimize our choices to survive in the most cost-effective and efficient manner possible.
We buy to blossom.
We select to show that we belong.
We purchase to get a sense of control and meaning.
We choose to avoid looking bad, as well as to draw attention.
We decide in order to feel good.
But conventional wisdom drives organizations to dispassionately deconstruct and compare their ideas to their competitors' ideas.
Executives sit in endless meetings logically plotting features, benefits, pricing, and positioning on 2 x 2 matrices.
But value isn't dispassionate.
Value is an enthusiastic and creative exchange between people.
Value isn't something you bring to life on your own.
It's not inert matter that you can extract from the marketplace, like drilling for oil.
Value is co-created.
It's released through a mutually beneficial and stimulating relationship.
Kill the matrix.
Kill complicated, time-consuming, and costly processes and engage people in possibility.
Organize simple, powerful creative undertakings that produce a constant stream of ideas and meaningful activities.
As Herb Kelleher, founder and former chairman and CEO of Southwest Airlines once remarked, "We have a strategic plan, it's called doing things."
Things that energize your brand and deliver that complex and evolving elixir called "value."