Some thoughts on the concept of value, for innovators: an example of reverse-thinking
Time ago I listened to a talk by Vito Mancuso, a famous Italian theologian, about “Io e Dio” (God and I). Quite an unusual topic for me. Nevertheless, I’ve extracted a reflection from it that, after some time, I wish to take up again here.
EVERYTHING HAS A PRICE, NOTHING IS FREE!
Roughly speaking, the explanation for this concept resides in human nature that, in comparison with other natural and biological species, can be depicted as an entity built on various layers (a classification approach similar to the one adopted in Information Technology). From the bottom to the top, there is the materiality layer and – going upwards – the biology one, the logic one, the spirituality one and finally the faith one – only for believers. As a man goes through this path, he gets more and more fragile, step by step, because, referring to the human’s basic instinct, “the more you know, the more you become fragile”. The road towards the full consciousness of ourselves and of the people around us is “the price that a man must pay” to be able to face the dynamicity and complexity of his daily life.
This was the spark that lit up my thought and that I’m continuously developing inside me through a self-research process [I’ve already written a post on this blog about the inadequacy of the term “free” when used to describe the nature of open source].
EVERYTHING HAS A PRICE, NOTHING IS FREE!
Open source editors develop a good and give it for free to everyone. Users get it, use it and quite often they don’t give anything in return. As I said in the premise of this post, everything has a price. Then, who is going to pay for it?
Not users! Here comes the paradox:
IT’S THE PRODUCER WHO WILL PAY FOR IT!
As a matter of fact, those who face the development costs are also the ones who pay for releasing the good and making it available for free. What a different perspective! This applies both to communities and companies.
WHY WILL THE PRODUCER PAY?
Common experience demonstrates that any human action is oriented toward a profit gain, or to get an advantage or to reach better living conditions. In this specific case, the users’ profit is obvious, but what about the producer’s one?
The open and conscious production leads to knowledge gain.
The profit here is not just the result of the sale of services set around the good. For clever people this represents the short-term monetary return needed to face the sole development costs. Another benefit comes from the reputation that can be obtained when acting in a fair and acknowledged way. In any case, the real return is the result of the progressive acquisition of a new consciousness that, fed with knowledge – which anyone can obtain when acting in an open way – allows to operate inside an evolutionary and dynamic context. This attitude trains ourselves to face the “next future” (an attitude that I also called “preadaptive behaviour” in another post). It’s a resolute step toward the continuous innovation, from people to people.
This is not small ethics. It’s a reflection on a different way of being, coming from our consciousness of ourselves, of other people around us and of the value that we can create all together. This behaviour can pervade and implicate not only the producer, but also the whole ecosystem that has grown with the good itself.
Everything has a price, nothing is free! A price that is worth paying!
WHAT WILL THE PRODUCER PAY?
The price doesn’t just come from development costs. The real price is the sum of the economical and non-economical costs coming from reverse trend actions. Going back to the theologian’s reflection, with a clear risky transposition, this price corresponds to the progressive fragility that comes from the difficulties and challenges encountered along this path. The final result is the acquisition of a new force, which is the new self-consciousness and sense of direction that is necessary to progress towards the future, looking for new developments, relationships, initiatives … in a word, looking for new VALUE.