05 December 2011

"Personal Value Proposition?" Not so fast

The HBR Blog has a post that suggests,
"Executives set value propositions for their products — the target market segments, the benefits they provide, and their prices. It's why a target customer should buy the product.But value propositions go beyond just products. Your personal value proposition (PVP) is at the heart of your career strategy. It's the foundation for everything in a job search and career progression — targeting potential employers, attracting the help of others, and explaining why you're the one to pick. It's why to hire you, not someone else.
On the surface, it seems to make good sense. After all, knowing the unique value one can provide to a potential employer or organization that may wish to engage her/him is an important aspect of both understanding oneself and getting hired.


As I describe in my popular keynote, "Take me to Your Leaders: Collaborative leadership and trust," the models we create and the language we use are not only descriptive, they are generative. In other words, they generate the institutions that in turn generate our society and the world in which we live.

With articles like this one posted on the HBR blog, I have to step back and question whether the use of corporate/business vocabulary, metaphors, and clichés like "personal value proposition" are appropriate for human connections and interactions in our contemporary context. When we adopt this sort of framing, we contribute to the subtle but systemic dehumanizing effects that characterize corporate colonizing of the life-world. It's not surprising that a corporatist/managerialist institution like HBR would promote business language in the context of personal development and realizing what one can provide that is of value.

Nonetheless, I think it is incumbent on those of us who actively promote a more humanistic, relationship-based construction of society - a construction of society that is more consistent with the complex reality of the contemporary UCaPP world - to mindfully transform the discourse. Exchange of value is but one of the five valence relationships (that is, Economic Valence). There are four others - Socio-psychological, Knowledge, Identity, and Ecological - that we should all strive to "build" without giving dominant preference to any one of them. A healthy organization based on healthy relationships strives to balance the valence relationships, in order to make not only better decisions, but more holistic, balanced, effective decisions.To do so means transforming the language we use throughout our daily interactions, especially in workplaces.

No comments: