Creating the world we want to live in.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the future lately. Specifically, our relationship to technology. Full disclosure — It scares me. Our culture seems to be obsessed with digitizing and speeding things up which is beginning to call into question what it means to be human. Efficiency can be a really good thing. I’m really glad that I don’t have to pump my water, light a fire to cook my food or try to send my wife letters while she’s away on tour. Technology has enabled us to connect with each other and create our own sustainable platforms to be freelance. This is amazing–It would be called magic in another time.
I recently listened to the latest Planet Money about digital tablets replacing servers in fast food chains around the country. It was shocking to me that this is how we are using new technology to move into the future. A big question people don’t seem to be asking is why we are doing this and who it’s helping. These decisions are not being made by the local business owner or customer — Instead corporate capitalism is driving many of these decisions. The aim for a fast food chain is not to improve the health or the lives of its staff or customers. It’s to speed up turnaround, lower food cost and run as efficiently as possible. Whether or not profit increases are needed to sustain a healthy company is not the question. Growth at all costs is. Shareholders want to see their money grow no matter the cost and they don’t like losing money. My issue, then, is not with progress of technology but the people steering the larger ship. As people at the top continue to make decisions for thousands of individuals they will never meet we have to ask — Is this really the world we want to live in? Because we don’t have to live this way.
For the past 2 years I have been focused on value pricing thanks to my amazing business coach, Jason Blumer. In this process I have been learning to charge for the value of a project and the value of my services over the quantity of deliverables or the quantity of hours worked. This model allows me to price a project based on what it is worth to me and the customer. Instead of trading my most precious commodity, time, for money. I’m trading the value of my services and the final product satisfaction for money. This helps me to look for better ways to serve the client over the long term. This thinking can seem greedy or lazy but what I am impressed by is its sustainability. As my prices have increased so has my quality of life, my service to the customer, my attitude and most importantly my work. If I get a job because I’m the cheapest I have failed on multiple levels because I’ve not only set a lower standard for the client but my personal and professional resources will become depleted as I take on more work to pay all of my bills. Pricing higher frees me up to mentor others, take classes and become a more engaged citizen of my community. Things we cannot do if we are always competing with the lowest price.
American culture has an obsession with speed and growth. We are trying to innovate our way out of our race to the bottom without asking some hard questions about why we do what we do.
The reality is that the customers who eat at these chains are enabling a culture that is not in their best interest technologically or physically. This is allowed when we don’t take the time to think about the cost of our actions. Maybe that is a lesson we can all learn from. Chasing the short gain by saving a few minutes or a few dollars by shopping online may be convenient. But the future may be far more inconvenient when we are unable to afford the cheap goods in the first place. Technology needs to be a tool that improves the lives, period. How can we re-evaluate or habits to be beneficial to both the business owner and the customer? How can we use our technology to deepen relationships and become more empathetic? How can we use our access to information to improve the standard of living through education? How can we use technology to make our lives better? I would love to know your thoughts.