Added value or holistic value development?

I have always thought there is something strange about the concept of ”adding value”. Which is frustrating as that is basically what I try to do in my work. I think the problem is that ”adding value” has a linear touch to it, like if some part of somethings value was already there by itself. Sure, if you deal with carpenters nails it might be so – the nail is a nail and its value grows according to the value chain (which in a postmodern context, in order to survive, should rename itself as the ”cost chain”). You can add things like nice packaging, hammering advice, a strong and engaging brand, and other things that make your nailing activities easier.

But many things around us are each a holistic experience. The mustard is not an added value to the hotdog, without the mustard the hotdog is (for many people) worthless.

It appears like when companies have reached a certain level of development of a physical product, they consider it finished and start looking for ways to ”add value”. The risk here is that what you ”add” is not relevant to the core product. There is no value to ”adding” in itself. Sometimes, taking away features and expressions, adds value. Look at those fixed gear single speed bicycles! And many times there is actually still room for physical innovation. The seemingly finished product is not ready.

Look at this example. The black BAHCO Ergo screwdrivers were a result of ergonomic research, developed by Ergonomidesign, once my employer. They were really good screwdrivers. The grip was so good that they started to get occasional problems with the metal tip, as people could apply much more force. But Bahco did not stop there, and while merging with Sandvik and Belzer they took this product yet one step further.

It appeared that there were many really useful features left to add to this seemingly ready product: A hole for hanging it on a hook. Flat sides to keep it from rolling off the workbench. New materials with better friction. In one sense this was added value, but so firmly connected to the products purpose that it was more a question of developing its core, adding obvious supporting elements that still no one had thought of before. This could be made because those involved in the development continued exploring the core values and necessities rather than looking for nice features.

I had a very small part in this project myself, as I finalised the design of the colour coded symbols so that the craftsman can see from above which screwdriver is which in his belt. That was an afternoon in my life when I thought about if the flat tip screwdriver should have the red or blue colour code. Added value sure, and rather experience based yes. But still very nearly associated with the use of the core product, contributing to the whole value. Not an ”extra”, just like I want it to be!

All these features are only meaningful when you see a product as a whole. When you don’t see the mustard as something that is ”adding value” to the hotdog. When you take the customers experience into consideration. When you dare to question if your seemingly ready product, or offering, has yet reached its basic level of performance. When you peer to see its essence. Through understanding its essence, and adding whatever might be missing, you create real value.

Most companies strive to increase the value of their offerings, and that is good. My advice is simply to develop the actual values from a holistic view. And the best way to do that is in a team of mixed competencies.

Look again. Gaze. Your offering is not finished yet!

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.