Transforming Ideas to Customer Value
Economic growth is about value added. In manufacturing it was adding value as a transformation process from physical raw materials to physical goods. Economic growth today is still about value added. The difference is that the generic, homogeneous raw materials of the industrial era, are unique ideas in the creative economy. The transformation process is also a very different kind of a process than in the past. The industrial process was a linear, sequential chain of predictable acts. In creative work, it is a non-linear, iterative, unpredictable, complex movement of thought.
The worlds of manufacturing-based added value and ideas-based added value require very different thinking and skills. In the creativity-based world we live in, it is not about reductionist job roles and narrow, clear responsibilities any more. Everybody needs to to take part in the onward movement of thinking. You have to know what the live, future-creating ideas are and how to take part in the conversations in a value-adding way. This is independent of what you do, or the organizational unit you belong to.
Economic success in creative work is the result of the inspiration, energy and interest you create, the cool factor; to fail is to find no one interested in what you try to achieve. Successful ideas and arguments are the one’s that capture people’s attention. Paradoxically you always need people who agree, but equally, you need people who don’t think like you. Thinking develops best through friction, argumentation and negotiation.
Ideas-based value added is interaction that is always based on working with differences. The requirement for efficient work is thus not necessarily to have common goals or to reach agreements. Thinking always clusters, in synchronous groups, but more importantly, asynchronously, over time. A person with an idea worth pursuing will give rise to an interaction chain in time, held together in comparable chains of supporters and opponents. The new management task is to understand (1) the speed of the movement of thought (2) what is being discussed, (3) the quality and cool factor of that conversation, and (4) how ideas actually develop towards (customer) value. Thinking does not take place inside independent people but in rich, continuous interaction. The richer the interaction, the more economic value added is potentially created.
Firms are formed and networked links initiated around exciting new thoughts. The onward movement of thinking occupies the most limited and important things there is: our focus. What we focus on, is called our attention space.
The attention space is the new metaphor for the industrial process and the corporate office. It is a “place of the mind”. It is an expression of focus and the live movement of our thinking. For an entrepreneur or a start up, it is always the most important real-time measurement of what is actually going on. The driving force behind power and change is competition for room in this space. The role of leadership is to influence the conversations occupying the attention space, the mind of the organization.
The management task is to enhance the speed of the interactive movement of thought, expressed as the entrepreneurial capacity for transforming ideas into customer value.