The Appearance of Value and the Value of Appearance

As the abundant and continual revealing of the economic debacle of the financial industry shows, not all is as it seems. In the most egregious cases of the Ponzi schemes, the appearance of value is all that was needed to create enormous wealth for the defrauders and liquidate the same amount (not to mention the opportunity cost of actual investment) for the defrauded investors.

Let us turn our eyes to another kind of appearance of value, one that the multi-millionaire and University of Hawaii School of Business benefactor has created. Mr. Jay Schidler (pronounced “shy”d-ler) has apparently offered the secret of his success in commercial real estate. I have heard reports of this formulation from various fora in which he has spoken.

First, he buys low, that is, shabby and run-down office buildings and the like. Then he does four things: paints the walls, adds tasteful new signage, adds plants, and adds lights to the plants. In viewing the other changes at his now eponymous College of Business, he also repairs the walkways (which sometimes requires reworking the drainage as well).

The leverage of these items is to increase the appearance of value. It points as well to the more important value appearing after these changes, which is the value that people hold to appearance, the aesthetic of our surroundings. This is the true value which this successful businessman creates. One we can learn from.

Taken psychologically and as an extended allegory:

* What are the drainage situations to fix, either in our physical surroundings, or our psychological environment and work practices? Drainage issues tend to show up regularly (when it rains) and can be represented by clogged and overflowing communication that does not have effective disposal processes in place.
* What plants could be added, making the surroundings more conducive to integration with the natural world? How should we better understand of what the natural environment consists? Please, let’s not use the tired phrase “sustainability” as that has been emptied of value. How can we make the planet, its variety of species more viable? How about only one plane flight per year? This would add plants by removing them from the “subtract” column.
* What signage should be added or enhanced? What are the symbols which point to the greater value present? More than a “new” font or logo, how can signage act as an inspiring aspect of our work, one that points the way forward?
* What lighting is needed, the bright light of the media or the dimmer background illumination of a website or social media presence? How can these lights show the integration with nature and the enhanced signage? What aspects of our work should be illuminated, not merely championed in public relations terms, but celebrated for doing things the right way?
* What walls need painting, and walkways need repair? Sometimes it is a matter of cleaning up old graffiti, such as removing the potty mouth or negativity that appears in online conversation. Monotony and repetition, while extremely valuable when it is about core values and mission, becomes tired if it is merely the repeated hawker’s cry combined with “this is new” “this is important” exhortation. Less is more.

Thank you Mr. Schidler for the inspiration.