Poetry, passion & measuring value

February 26, 2008

I had a conversation with a poet this week about how the value of something like poetry (which, in comparison to many other art forms is a relatively niche area) is captured. Our discussion centred on the ways in which we value experience and how increasingly, that is through quantitative measures. A poetry festival can never compete in terms of numbers with a music festival and a music festival can never compete with a soccer match. So if the numbers are the only way in which we can attach value then we’re losing before we start.
Our discussion evolved into one of how to capture the quality and value of experience. In our social and personal lives we can speak to this with ease and comfort but we find it difficult to attach a value to it when we get “organised”. Of course, this is relevant in the world of consulting and business as well. How can I add value to what it is I do in a way that is meaningful to me, to my client and to what happens as a result of our time together? My poet colleague remarked on the feedback he hears each year which is about the intimacy of the surroundings, the quality of the engagement between readers and audiences and the informal way in which conversations evolve out of the formal task of the enterprise.
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not always possible to know what you know. That space in between is where the real added value happens. That real added value isn’t something that can be sold or promised. It’s something that’s created when the quality of the experience is significant. So the relationship is the thing – and tending to that means

  • Listening as well as hearing
  • Knowing when not to talk
  • Taking time to reflect on what each brings to the relationship as well as what each takes away
  • Knowing what baggage as well as luggage is carried
  • Knowing that it isn’t the client’s responsibility to make up for previous bad experiences I have had with others
  • Knowing that it isn’t my responsibility to prove to the client that I won’t repeat the same damage as a previous consulting experience has

And ultimately

  • Knowing who I am and what I want out of this relationship

And that’s as well as doing the job I’ve been hired to do.
I often wonder if we were to put as much effort into our personal relationships, in terms of courses, methodologies, evaluations etc as we do into the science of managing relationships with clients, what the world would look like. Is it that we can see the prize in business but can’t in our personal lives? I guess I think of myself as being in the business of joining up the dots between both which is why the balance between one-on-one consulting and larger consulting engagements suits my skill base, personality and passion. It also seems to attract clients who are interested in resolving problems while learning the lessons they contain.