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What GDP Doesn’t Count

July 13, 2010

In this TED Talk Chip Conley shares some priceless business advice from his years of experience running a hotel chain.

Although I recommend you watching the video, I will try to summarize some of his main points here.

1. What gets counted gets fixed

2. The things that are most important to humans can’t be easily counted

3. GDP isn’t the holy grail of prosperity measurements

Expanding on the last point, I have provided a list from the video via Bobby Kennedy (and with a few modifications from me)

“GDP measures everything in short, except for what makes life worthwhile.”

GDP Counts:

  • Air pollution
  • Cigarette advertising
  • Ambulance rides
  • Locks for our doors
  • Jails for the people who break them
  • Destruction of our forests
  • Loss of natural wonder in urban sprawl
  • Napalm and other weapons of destruction
  • Armored police cars to stop riots
  • Sales of guns and knives
  • TV and other forms of toxic media
  • Divorce and criminal attorneys

What GDP doesn’t count

  • The health of our children
  • Quality of their education
  • Joy of their play
  • Beauty of our poetry
  • Strength of our marriages
  • Intelligence of our public debate
  • Integrity of our public affairs
  • Our courage, wisdom, and compassion
  • The closeness of our relationships

What do you guys think?

Is our economy doing poorly in light of the GDP numbers, or because “the numbers” are the only things businesses have been focusing on?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Tami Williams permalink
    July 14, 2010 11:52 am

    What a worthwhile talk by Chip Conley! I have always wanted customers to enjoy, or even have fun while reading what I write or watching the shows I produce. Back in the ’90s powers-that-be banned the word, “fun” from business conversations. I think Chip pointed out that happiness is a daily, universal and fundamentally American pursuit. Shouldn’t we consider how our products and branding can lead consumers to this? I have to think that the desire for video in even the driest of Web sites and the success of youtube demonstrates engagement in that which entertains as well as informs, offering happiness. Yay Chip!

  2. July 16, 2010 2:02 pm

    Thanks for sharing B! This is exactly why I think a focus on trying to measure everything leads to disaster. Even the things we can measure rarely give us the full picture.

  3. July 18, 2010 12:38 pm

    Thanks for commenting Tami, I think you make a really strong point here: “happiness is a daily, universal and fundamentally American pursuit. Shouldn’t we consider how our products and branding can lead consumers to this?”

    I think the future of marketing and business is in a higher pursuit of things other than profits. We have gotten so far away from what it means to be human, however the Internet is allowing positive ideas and likeminded people to gather around things we never could before.

    Greg, I always enjoy your posts, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment as well!

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