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The paradoxical relationship between cost & value

The idea of a handmade Amazon Web Services (AWS) instance, lego piece, or computer hardware component is as absurd as it sounds.

The reason being is that for goods and services like AWS, legos, and computer hardware, the means of production bear very little implication on how the consumer values them — a good and fair price is usually how the perception of value is achieved in these cases.

On the other hand, consider original paintings, handwritten letters, and Zappos’ widely celebrated 10-hour, 43-minute customer support call — all things which are prized in some sense because of how high their production cost is.

The reason why economies of scale and slow, high-cost work both matter— why we simultaneously prize e-mail that gets sent in milliseconds & handwritten letters that take days to receive — is because they both signal value in very different and important ways.

When aiming to create something exceptionally valuable for the people you aim to serve, an important consideration is whether the widget itself is what matters, or if the effort around producing, sharing, and supporting the work matters. In many cases it’s both.



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William Liao

William Liao

Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (ephemera.photography)