Value can be defined in different ways. In market economies it is usually defined by price, a stopgap to mitigate the intractable complexity of exchanging otherwise hard to compare goods and services. Pricing value to exchange it on markets is a tremendously successful social innovation. So successful even, that exchanges mediated by price – the logic of buying and selling – increasingly governs almost every aspect of life. But that, well, comes at a price.
First, there is the problem of inequality. In a society where everything is for sale, life is much harder for those with little means. Second, there is the problem of corruption. Putting a price on the good things in life can corrupt them. Paying a kid to read might make it read but also teaches it to regard reading as a chore rather than a source of satisfaction. Third, the victory march of price popularized a logical fallacy, the idea that any activity that fetches a price creates value – and vice versa. You are making a lot of money, so you must be a value creator. Or not?
In short, how we define value is not an abstract question. It is one with far-reaching consequences. And how we define it today often leads to value-creating activities go unnoticed or underrecognized economically and socially. Think of the frontline workers on hospital floors or at supermarket check-outs whose renewed recognition in the wake of the COVID crisis so far failed to translate into better rewards. How we measure value today also makes it simple for value-extracting activities to dress up as value-creating because it fails to distinguish rents (unearned income) and profits (earned income). Consequently, rewarding the former over the latter is difficult.
The course “Sustainable Value Creation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution” aims to take students on a journey to explore the evolving – and sometimes conflicting and confusing – nature of value in 21st century economies, and fosters a dialogue with practitioners on how entrepreneurs can innovate to create value that is inclusive and sustainable.
All course modules put a special focus on the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” – a term that describes the maturing of technologies which may both amplify the power and aggravate the perils of market solutions while deeply transforming our understanding of value, from smart algorithms that replace traditional price mechanisms to digital ledgers that put a price – and thus quantifiable value – on the intangible and, at times, the incomprehensible.
to be confirmed