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.

Business 2.0

Purpose, trust, value and platforms

I came across this post [article no longer available] link see on Airbnb via the Collaborative Consumption email newsletter. This quote in particular struck me:

Airbnb should be a modern day case study for a new kind of 21st Century business–a company that creates immensely more value than it extracts from customers. They are adding value to their users’ lives in multiple dimensions all at the same time.

Business models like Airbnb’s are based on value that is co-created with customers. Airbnb creates “immensely more value” by providing the enabling platform for value to be generated, and is rewarded for its contribution to the community.

Michael’s post goes on to discuss the importance of a clear purpose as the foundation stone to build an organisation culture capable of disruptive innovation. I would go further to suggest that for a business like Airbnb, where there traditional models of value-exchange are blurred, that purpose needs to look beyond the financial bottom line – “adding value to their users’ lives in multiple dimensions” is a great way to express that sentiment.

In addition to a clear purpose, there is also a need for trust, a point that Peter Merholtz picks up in this recent post.

Netflix, Nordstrom, Southwest, Zappos, USAA — these are all companies renowned for great customer experience. And they provide remarkable latitude to both customers and employees, a latitude that suggests trust.

As Peter notes, such trust extends beyond employees, it also requires trust in customers — including not punishing the majority of your customers to avoid problems with the minority (Zappos’ liberal return policy, for example). Airbnb is, of course, also a great example of this kind of trust (as are ventures like Kiva and Zopa).

To my mind, these concepts — Purpose, Trust, Co-created value, Platform — represent keystones for socially innovative business.