My son was born almost 11 months ago and is just starting to walk on his own. Seeing him learn to stand on his own feet and the look of sheer glee on his face as explores his world is magical. Watching him and his big sister become more and more themselves is basically the best thing in my world. I think most parents experience something similar, having kids gives us a chance to see the world through new eyes and experience familiar things for the first time once again.
Like many parents I find myself reconsidering priorities and modes of thought. In my professional life I spend a lot of time thinking about metrics and key performance indicators (KPI’s) because so much of what I do revolves around tracking and reporting. It’s far too easy to get so caught up in the work that one loses sight of the KPI’s that really matter – things like being a decent human being, teaching my kids good values, leaving the world a better place than I found it. What I’ve come to realize is that fundamentally they all come back to one thing – adding beauty to the world.
In tech startup-land it’s common to frame actions in term of whether or not they “add value” to the company or to clients. It’s a useful shorthand and a good reminder that if a product or service isn’t adding value there’s no reason for people to consider paying for it. Being cool is nice, adding value is essential. As a professional, my interactions with customers and coworkers are determined by this simple metric: does what I am about to do add value? I find having a simple clean metric like this immensely helpful in cutting through the noise of office politics, my own ego, and anything else that can cloud the issue.
At the same time, it’s far too easy to get sucked into thinking about things only in terms of monetary value – we see the horrific impacts of such thinking in every clearcut forest, every destroyed fishery, and in the impending existential crisis of climate change. I’ll save the rant about capitalism for another day, for the purposes of this post it’s enough to say that these things are the result of an ideology that defines value in strictly monetary terms. For example when one works for a logging company a pristine old growth forest has no value but the lumber you could extract by clear cutting it does; and so we clear cut our forests with abandon and leave the natural world – the ecosystem that makes our existence possible – in ruins.
I’d like to propose a new KPI: Adding beauty. Continue reading