Business 2.0, Sustainability

Intrinsic and extrinsic value

I’ve been having some further thoughts relating to my previous post on value creation, platforms and trust, and the terms “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” value keep coming to mind.

Intrinsic value = “belonging to a thing by its very nature”

The way I’ve been thinking about the concept of “intrinsic value” is the underlying value a business/organisation provides, just by existing.  It’s the value, taken from the community/customer/environmental perspective, that is generated by the business simply existing.  It is the business’ core purpose — the reason that employees will be passionate about coming to work, and customers will be passionate about spreading the word.

In the case of Airbnb, the business exists to support people sharing their spare space.  This provides community value, whether you are a buyer or seller – it enables the community to do things it wouldn’t otherwise be able to do — i.e. afford to travel longer, generate financial return for disused space.  It also has environmental (and one could argue economic) value because it maximally utilises resources.

Similarly, GoGet creates a more convenient mode of transport at a lower cost to the customer.  It also reduces demand for resources (space for parking, one car shared among many people) and places the returns for efficiency back to the company, so they are incentivised to improve efficiency of vehicles etc.

Extrinsic value = “being outside a thing; outward or external”

What I conceive “extrinsic value” to mean is the economic value the business derives from its activity — i.e. financial return to the business.  This is the reward to the company/organisation for providing the intrinsic value that is its core purpose.

A strong intrinsic value proposition makes it much easier to generate these type of returns, as well as providing the broader social and environmental returns that might also be possible.

This is a shift in business thinking from extracting value from the market, to how to creating value for and with the market, and a refocusing on intrinsic value proposition —core purpose — to achieve deeper returns.

These terms might mean different things to different people (I know it means something very different in financial markets, for example), so I wonder if using this language makes sense?  But in any case, I hope it’s an useful take on focusing on core purpose to achieve business outcomes.