Awake at the Wheel

Exploring the intersection between work, play, and the creative process.

How Money Makes Us Stupid

A thud is worth more than a whisper.

When an experience itself is joyful, like a massage or reading a great book, we want the greatest "volume" of it for our money. More time on the table, more pages in the book.

When we're looking for answers, solutions to problems and big ideas that will help us get where we want to go, though, we want the bee line approach. Strip it down. Give it to me fast and direct so I can do something with it.

But there's a problem. when we have to pay real money for the latter, all hell breaks lose in the value-volume calculation in our heads.

Surveys show we now consider time our most precious resource, even over money. Yet all too often, we look for the biggest, baddest, most voluminous, time-consuming solution we can find for the money, assuming that the option with the greatest volume will provide the greatest value.

Manufacturers and marketers know this is how our brain's work. And to take advantage of this irrational quirk, they create products, solutions and, gulp, books, that seem to present with the greatest "heft" for the money, even when they could have solved the problem or delivered the message in a substantially more streamlined format. One Legendary marketer calls this the "thud" factor, or the sound you want your package to make when it's delivered and hits the table.

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A thud, our brains tell us, is worth more than a whisper.

Volume and value.

Seemingly directly related, but in truth, often inversely related...when the currency is time and we're in pain.

When we take money out of the equation, we all look for the greatest value in the shortest possible time when looking for solutions. Makes sense, we don't want to waste a second more than we need to.

But when we introduce money into the equation, we turn rationality on it's head. Now we search for ways to give up the greatest amount of time—a far more precious, non-replenishable asset—in the name of "getting our money's worth."

Thus the "Value-Volume Paradox."

Perfect example, a story I've heard many variations of over the years...

A man walks into a dentist's office, gets a checkup and learns he needs a tooth pulled. The dentist says it'll take about 10 minutes and cost $1,000. The man says that's a hell of a lot of money for 10 minutes work, to which the dentist replies, "I can make it take an hour if you like."

So what's the solution?

Abandon the quest for heft, embrace the quest for time-efficient value.

The greatest value is often capable of being delivered in tiny packages...if both provider and receiver are open to a relationship defined not by maximum volume/dollar, but maximum impact/dollar.

Or, as Good Ink, Inc. founder, Taylor Lindstrom, says in her twitter profile -

"I don't charge for copy by the hour. I charge by the awesome. Which makes me expensive, but also - and this is critical - awesome."

Thoughts?

 

Jonathan Fields is an attorney turned serial-entrepreneur, business strategist, speaker and author. He writes about the creativity, innovation, embracing uncertainty, leadership, entrepreneurship, mindfulness and lifestyles at JonathanFields.com. Jonathan's latest book,  Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel For Brilliance, is due out in September 2011 from Penguin/Portfolio. When not deep into the process of creation, you can usually find him dancing around his living room with his wife and daughter.

Jonathan Fields is an attorney turned lifestyle-entrepreneur, speaker, and author of Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel For Brilliance.

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