Ferdinand van Heerden

The Values Proposition (2010)

The global financial crises triggered a rethink about the essential purpose and impact of business on society. Movements like Occupy Wall Street and Compassionate Capitalism show that society urgently needs to evolve beyond a purely financial measurement of business success.

The Values Proposition’s approach to business building aims to address this. Instead of planning around a core Value proposition i.e. something that people are willing to pay for, it sets out building a business around a bigger idea. With a Values proposition at the business core, designers can align the interests and beliefs of the real stakeholders, and build a business they want to see succeed. This requires new metrics for success and a new process for strategic business engagement.

This approach picks up on fundamental trends in consumerism and business and leadership practice. As consumers move towards a world where “ownership” becomes less important than experience the way in which people interact with brands and businesses is changing. The questions being asked about how a product was made and how it will be perceived are more important.

Employees are also more mobile and active than ever before. This means they are asking new questions about what their contribution to a company really means and how this feeds back to their sense of wellbeing. These two trends combined, creates a new opportunity space in which companies can create new products and services.

As deeply humanist ideas these products and services are measured by non-traditional success metrics. Starting with constituencies, rather than stakeholders, the sentiment and desires of the various groups are the basis for measuring business momentum. Connection, engagement and spread reinterpret market share and margin as qualitative rather than purely quantitative measures. Overall the core success metric is “How many people want to see you succeed?”

The Values Proposition is different from the sustainability movement in that is a human centred approach to building businesses (rather than a resources or materials based approach). It also moves beyond pure social or corporate social responsibility measures in that is anchored in the core strategic and competitive processes of a business.