Intangible Values: The Building Blocks of Purpose

OpinionPosted | Category: BRM Capability, Business Relationship Management Research | Contributed

Intangible Values


Empower Individuals.

Deliver on your Promises.

Every organization strives to live by a set of values like the ones mentioned above. These values represent a moral compass for the employees to follow, which sets them on the path towards success.

First of all, values come in many forms and we, as individuals, may agree or disagree with whichever ones we please. However, to truly be justified in our judgments of certain values, it’s imperative to know the distinction between the two main types: tangible & intangible values.

Tangible (Extrinsic) Values

Something that holds tangible value is derivatively good; meaning it is good for the sake of something else it’s related to. In other words, something with tangible value derives value from its relationship with another thing that is inherently good.

For Example:

When asked why it is good to give employees vacations, one answer might be because it contributes to mental health. However, vacations may not always contribute positively to mental health. Perhaps you have been on a vacation before that was more stressful, than relaxing?

Instead, vacations provide tangible value only when you return feeling well-rested and rejuvenated. Therefore, one could say that vacations provide tangible value when they positively contribute to your mental health (something inherently good).

Intangible (Intrinsic) Values

Comparatively, something that holds intangible value is non-derivatively good; meaning it is good for its own sake.

For Example:

In following the first scenario regarding vacations and mental health, we might be prompted to ask, “Why is it good to have a mentally healthy workforce?”

Certainly, you could provide extrinsic rationale by saying that a mentally healthy workforce leads to increased productivity and business value.

But you could also answer with intrinsic rationale, mentioning that it is intangibly valuable to maintain good health, which directly contributes to a quality life. Therefore, positive mental health holds intangible value since it is simply good to be healthy.

Intangible Values Are More Powerful

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Psychology, “Intrinsic value (…) has a certain priority over extrinsic value.” Moreover, philosophers have placed heavy emphasis on intrinsic, and thus intangible, value for centuries. But, why?

To answer that, let’s think like a philosopher for a second…

If I have two similar objects, but one holds intangible value while the other holds tangible value, the former object is innately more valuable. Why?

Because, as per the definition of intrinsic value, that object is good for its own sake; its value does not come from some other source outside of the objects themselves.

Consider Your Intangible Values for Increased Motivation

In this area, philosophers and business professionals find agreement. The aforementioned values of Integrity, Empowering Individuals, and Delivering on your Promises hold incredible amounts of intangible value. Naturally, employees strive towards these ideals because they recognize the societal value of living by these moral guides.

Is there a reason why organizations are more apt to claim Integrity as a value, rather than stating We Give Vacations? What are your personal intangible values?

Take a moment to consider your values, and how those relate to the values of your company. Consequently, synergy between personal and organizational values helps you find purpose and motivation in your work.

Consider a focus on values to increase your personal and professional success.

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