Adams, the most successful cartoonist in history, refers to the value creation process from an economic perspective. He calls it the voluntary production of positive externalities. And don't worry about being compensated for it right away, he says. If you succeed in producing things that are of value to others, they will want you around, and you will have plenty of rewarding possibilities you would not have had otherwise. The question is, how do we categorize value creation? There are as many paths to usefulness as there are people to walk them.
VALUE CONTINUUM — An employee contribution framework for tracking ideas, tools, connections and opportunities
Let's explore four approaches to creating value, in ascending order, from good to great, and from easiest to hardest, but all of which can help you make a significant contribution at your organization: Ideas. Tools. Connections. Opportunities. Ideas are memes. They are born when the human nervous system reacts to an experience. They're resilient and highly contagious, and the beginnings of them are everywhere waiting for the eager mind and eye to seize. And if you keep coming up with lots of ideas, good and bad, everything else just falls into place. To create value, we need people who can notice ideas, name them, document them, and create a fertile culture in which they germinate and bloom. Next, tools are utilities. They enable people to focus on the right things in a more systematic way. Whether they’re software programs, communication rituals or simple spreadsheet formulas, they expand our ability to engage with our ideas and achieve our goals. And they can make anything from incremental improvements that help with people's tasks and roles, or full blown innovations that elevate the whole company to the next level. To create value, we need people who make things that solve real, urgent, expensive and pervasive problems. Third, connections are social currency. It's that cherished electricity between each other without which organizations can thrive. No matter how many days a week we're working remotely, relationships are still what make us feel human and alive and supported. And since all business is people business, people who practice the art of interpersonal intention and attention make the greatest impact. To create value, we need people who build connection as the scaffolding that helps the rest of us execute great work. Finally, opportunities are openings. They are new the circumstances that make future growth possible. They can be created from whole cloth, uncovered from beneath the noise, or attracted through strategic generosity. New offerings, new customers, new partnerships, new markets, new projects and initiatives, a steady flow of these things is precisely what takes an organization to the next level. To create value, we need people who use their insight, resources, courage and intuition to sniff out possibility where others don’t think or dare to look. Ideas. Tools. Connections. Opportunities. These are the four ways we create value within an organization, aka, the voluntary production of positive externalities.
The value continuum is a tool I developed at one of my jobs. It not only helped me stay accountable to being useful, but our executive team ended up operationalizing into our annual performance review process. Companies should consider using this framework to evaluate the kinds of contributions employees make, and reward them accordingly.
Nobody is standing in the way of our ability to create it. We are the ones who are standing; before the canvas of our work, free to create a world of meaning, making a truly significant contribution to the people around us. What are the most valuable things you have created in the last thirty days?
Make a significant economic contribution
Increase job security at your organization
Expand your team’s ability to achieve their goals
Earn promotions, more responsibility and the chance to lead