Words That Change

The death list #1: Added value

In Uncategorized on 3 October, 2011 at 22:23

I am beginning a death list of words and terms that are becoming worthless through over-use. Death is a vital part of renewal and re-imagination. To restore a sense of meaning beyond words we need to change them consistently to understand the value that lies beneath.

My first word on the death list  is:


Notable Culprits: José Baldaia, The Minimalists, the entire design profession.

Beloved of designers and social business entrepreneurs this term isa way to suggest a deeper connection to one’s activity, or an interest in the needs of others. Indeed, by adding value, we are somehow contributing to a higher universal goal.

And what could be wrong with that?

Nothing. Except that a man turned up to a meeting today “to explore ways he could add value to the discussion”. He commoditised himself and became value adding machine.

This is a flip from previous meaning. Value-added used to be a term for economists to refer to activities that were motors of the economy. Technologies counted as value added, productivity and innovation were its hallmarks.

Added-Value, however, connotes a wider sense of contribution, in tune with natural human desires, relevant to the task at hand. Other people value what I do. What I do has value in that it – Note that a value has to exist in a person’s opinion. Nothing has value in itself. It has to be specified. To add value is therefore to create something about which people will have a good opinion. Surely not the hallmark of mavericks and world changers, or those whose creations have had lasting impact.

We use “added value” because we have lost a sense of how to specify what we want and need. And so a cliché is former whose use diminishes each time it is written or spoken.


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