The idea of “Conversation on Value” is to align with the mission of my work, which is to reframe value in business and society.
When you listen to each podcast on Traces&Dreams, you may miss that I’m taking you places you could not take yourselves. I’m not just the invisible utility vehicle for the guests. I’m active part in carrying you in the journey to discovery and understanding through conversation. The natural exchange of your attention for acquiring greater capacity to affect change is an example of value in use in real life.
“What is value?” is perhaps the most urgent, yet neglected, question of our time.
In the 4th Century BC Aristotle thought the Value Problem concerned the best or most productive use of a thing. Unlike today, he made no distinction between value in use and value in exchange.
Though it is thousands of years old, the Value Problem still matters
because it impacts directly the way we live our life, individually and collectively.
Valeria Maltoni is a strategist and linguist at Conversation Agent. Her Alma Mater, the University of Bologna, was founded in 1088 as a cooperative to co-create value in education.
In the conversation on value podcast series, Maltoni will explore the question of value in language and narrative, commerce and ethics, the internet and much more with professors, researchers, lawyers, and experts in communication, semiotics, and leadership. Together, we’ll engage in the question of what is the best use of a thing, which has been largely lost to history.
Value in rituals with Jonathan Cook
“Machine” has been a prevalent metaphor for business since the Industrial Revolution. And it seems that automated systems of machine learning have become the current direction in search of ever higher efficiency and optimization. But, increasingly, the consequences of this trajectory have had an adverse impact on people. Disengagement on both sides of the business transaction is the most salient and pervasive. People are cultural beings, not resources to be harvested. How can we put the value back into things and experiences to enrich culture and ourselves? Ritual design is the overlooked territory within our own commercial culture. As symbolic markers of a passage between one part of life and another, rituals require a shift in identity to match the scale of the transition. Through an immersive threshold experience in which participants become temporarily liberated from the restrictions that otherwise define their lives, rituals enable the transformation of psychological and social identities, bridging the world of the concrete and the abstract. Rituals help us discover moments of profound human significance in a complex society that many have discounted as hopelessly mundane and disenchanted. The conversation will explore the origins of rituals and commonalities with and applications to business.
Jonathan Cook is an independent qualitative researcher who specializes in using immersive interviewing techniques to study the stories, rituals, beliefs, and emotions that shape commercial culture. Since he began his work in 1995, his research has informed the strategies of clients from a wide variety of corporations, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. He is currently producing a new podcast, Stories of Emotional Granularity, which explores the diversity of emotions people experience beyond the simple categories measured by Emotion Artificial Intelligence. The first season of the podcast will be available in the spring of 2023.
Value in Emotion with Prof Batja Mesquita
Emotions are not innate, but happen between people and signal a taking of a stance in relationships, both one-on-one and within larger social networks. That’s the thesis and argument in Between Us: How Cultures Create Emotions. A pioneer of cultural psychology, Batja Mesquita discusses her scientific research and work on emotion with Valeria Maltoni. The conversation ranges from the contours of “shame” and “anger” in different cultures, to the invention and uses of “love” and “happiness” in culture, from how moving away and toward another human being or group works emotionally, to how emotions could tie into stories in the world, rather than being actual mental states.
Batja Mesquita is a social psychologist and affective scientist. She is a professor of psychology at the University of Leuven, Belgium, and director of the Center for Social and Cultural Psychology at the University of Leuven. Before coming to Leuven, she was affiliated to Wake Forest University, the University of Michigan, Stanford University, and the University of Amsterdam. Mesquita is one of the world’s leading authorities on the psychological study of cultural differences in emotions. Her most recent research focuses on the role of emotions in multicultural societies. She studies how emotions affect the belonging of minority youth in middle schools, and the social and economic integration of “newcomers” (i.e. newly arrived immigrants). Mesquita has been a consultant for UNICEF and the WHO, and most recently, she was a member of the core group of scientific advisors for the Happiness and Well-being (SEH) Project, an initiative of the Vatican in partnership with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).
Value in History with Prof Jacob Soll
How did we get to where we are? We’re generally pretty good at knowing the big things that happened in the past, but we tend to lose much of the nuance of how ideas formed and developed historically. A notion that has become central dogma in economics is due for serious reappraisal – the Free market ideology. Jacob Soll is a University Professor of philosophy, history, and accounting at the University of Southern California. In this conversation on value, Soll and Valeria Maltoni take a stroll down history lane.
Understanding how scale/standardization in the form of tariffs, subsidies, and state-monopolies lead to political repression, the role of the church in laying the foundation for the modern state, tracing the historical roots of “money” and “capital” and significance in our current narrative and the commons’ role in building infrastructure, cultural origins of commerce, and the origins of industrial reform and birth of capitalism can help us find a way out of the current predicament.
Jacob Soll received a B.A. from the University of Iowa, a D.E.A. from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, France, and a Ph.D. from Magdalene College, Cambridge University. He has been awarded numerous prestigious prizes including two NEH Fellowships, the Jacques Barzun Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and, in 2011, the MacArthur Fellowship. Free Market: The History of an Idea (Basic Books, 2022) is an analysis of classical philosophy, natural law, history and contemporary economic culture. Soll has been a correspondent for the Boston Globe, and a regular contributor to the New York Times, Politico, the New Republic, PBS, Salon.com and the Chronicle of Higher Education. He’s currently meeting with political and financial leaders across the globe to promote accounting standards and financial transparency.
Value in Ethical Decision-Making with Prof. Guido Palazzo
We all like to think we’re good people, but in a toxic environment, we could go to the dark side. Strong organizational contexts push good people towards unethical decisions. In our conversation we explore the when, where, and who of taking control over the influence of these dark forces and global value chains.
Dr. Guido Palazzo is Professor of Business Ethics at HEC Lausanne, University of Lausanne. In his research, he is passionate about the dark side of the force and examines unethical decision making from various angles. He is mainly known for his studies in globalization, in particular on human rights violations in global value chains, but he also studies the reasons for unethical behavior in organization and the impact of organized crime on business and society. Currently, he is examining the illegal toxic waste business of the Italian Mafia. He studied business administration and has a PhD in philosophy from the University of Marburg in Germany.
Value in Language: Julie Sedivy, “Connecting with Emotion”
Julie Sedivy and Valeria talk about the interplay between language and emotion in creating identity, and the value of this connection. “We only realize the value of something after we lose it,” says Julie. There’s an “ebb and flow of language in the mind” with migration. Julie says, “languages are the vehicles of our lives. It’s the means through which we communicate our values, and so on.” Language provides cultural context. Preserving the body of work in ancient Greece wouldn’t have been possible without continuity in language. What are the collective cons(equences) of the loss of cultural texture and nuance?
“Learn a language, gain a soul” because we access different parts of ourselves in different languages. E.g., Personality tests (English and Spanish). Dutch study (English more competitive, Dutch more collaborative). Exposure to anglophone culture. Early childhood tighter emotional connection.
Julie Sedivy is a language scientist and a writer. She received a PhD in linguistics from the University of Rochester, where she conducted pioneering research in psycholinguistics, a field that lies at the intersection of psychology and linguistics.
She has taught linguistics and psychology at Brown University and the University of Calgary, and has authored dozens of scientific articles as well as a popular undergraduate textbook on psycholinguistics, Language in Mind.
She now devotes much of her time to writing for non-academic audiences, on language and other topics. Her most recent book, Memory Speaks, explores multilingualism, identity, and language loss. Her forthcoming book, slated for release in 2024, is a series of essays that chronicle the unfolding of language in a human life and its entanglement with experiences of time, love, and mortality.
Value in Use: Peter Tunjic, the solution to humanity’s value crisis
Organizing corporations around the concept of exchange value is making the planet unlivable. The purpose of Peter’s millennia challenge is to develop a lens capable of predicting the current crisis and offering a safer alternative foundation for corporations, corporate law and corporate governance. He calls it the search for Phi.
Peter Tunjic is an experienced lawyer and commercial law theorist based in Melbourne, Australia. His research interests intersect corporate law, theory of value and non equilibrium thermodynamics. In relating physics to corporate law, Peter supports his analysis and advice to clients with rigorous argument and reason. He also writes contracts. Find him at On Directorship.
Value in Narrative: Christina Patterson, “How to Hit a Heart”
In an age when so much content, including media, is limp and lazy, when we’re appropriate, precise, and thoughtful about the stories we tell we create value.
Christina Patterson is the author of Outside, the Sky is Blue and The Art of Not Falling Apart. While she’s thinking about the next book, she’s building a coaching practice with a related podcast, The Art of Work. (Guests in the current series include former Twitter VP Bruce Daisley, bestselling writer and palliative care consultant, Kathryn Mannix, internationally renowned cellist Steven Isserlis, classicist and bestselling author Mary Beard and T S Eliot-prize-winning poet, Joelle Taylor.)
She’s also been doing her journalistic work, mostly as a literary critic for the Sunday Times and discussing politics and current affairs on the Sky News press preview and BBC Radio 2’s The Jeremy Vine Show.
You can find out more about Christina’s writing and journalism here, more about the coaching and podcast on The Art of Work. Sunday Times reviews here (Requires subscription).
Value in Communication: “a dance between clarity and surprise” with Nick Parker
Good communication conveys a message clearly. Surprise helps the message stick. But there’s a little bit more to it than that. In this episode of Conversation on Value, Nick and I talk about what it means to find your voice, explain things.
Nick Parker was once creative director at The Writer. Before that, he spent a decade as a writer, editor and non-ironic corduroy-wearer at The Oldie magazine. And waaay back, he was a cartoonist for Viz and a joke-writer for the radio.
A business is one of the greatest problem-solving tools humanity has ever invented. A brand is what happens when a business takes Dolly Parton’s advice to figure out who you are, then do it on purpose.
The best communication is always a dance between clarity and surprise. For years, Nick thought he got that quote from neuro-linguist Steven Pinker’s book, Sense of Style. He just checked. Turns out it was something he’d written in a margin. It sounded insightful coming from Pinker. “Sounds a bit pretentious coming from me.”
Nick still thinks of all writing is essentially joke-writing: focus people’s attention so they arrive at your punchline bang on time, with all the information they need for the lightbulb to go on, and for laughter and cheering.
‘Laughter is just the sound we make when all the truth arrives at once.’ Someone who is neither Nick nor Stephen Pinker said that.
Most good ideas are just two unrelated normal ideas, mashed together.
If nothing else, Nick tries to have lots of unrelated normal ideas.