Tread on Utility or Values

What is the difference? You find utility in a product or service, or people or organizations. They deliver a product or service and you see the utility. When they deteriorate or stop delivering they are no longer of utility.

Or is it that utility is subjective. An umbrella in sunshine may not invite a second glance, or a vacant cab when plenty are around. On the other hand your eyes frantically search for a vacant cab when they are hard to find, or your anxiousness of help in times of crisis.

So when you have plenty of options, or your need for the product or service is marginal, the utility reduces. The product or service remains the same. The candle lies in wilderness, but when the lights go out, then drawers and cabinets are frantically looked into for the friend to dispel the darkness.

Like a friend who appears as a pest as you see no need or immediate utility of him. And one fine day you see a need for him and you start reaching out to him.

It appears that many look at people like products. An umbrella, a candle, a camera, or a tool is ignored when not required and worshipped when they see the need. Products are inanimate objects and may not see the differential treatment.  However when humans are treated that way, the results could be disastrous.

Mohan had hired a contractor to renovate his office. During the course of the renovation Mohan would take contractor’s every call and patiently answer his queries. The contractor’s requests for advances too were dealt admirably. And then the assignment drew to a close.  A week later Mohan saw the contractor’s call flashing on his cell but avoided it. Two days later the same. The contractor who had come to admire Mohan for his cooperation and dealing was unable to connect the change in behaviour. He was accustomed to Mohan’s swift responses and started feeling sour.

After a few attempts the contractor showed up at the office and requested an audience as he wanted his final bills to be cleared. He was told to come later as Mohan was busy in a meeting.

The contractor left dejected. He made two or three more calls without success. Three weeks later he was pleasantly surprised to receive a call from Mohan. He apologized for the unavailability and requested when he could meet him at the earliest. And by the way, there is some issue with the doors that needed immediate attention, could he take care of it immediately.

For the contractor, the cat was out of the bag. It was clear that Mohan was least interested in completing his part of the deal, and his latest overtures were only towards the need that he had experienced after the completion of the contract.

In another case, Sudhir was approached by a firm for air-conditioning maintenance. They diligently followed up with him, presented their credentials, and were awarded the contract with the annual amount paid in advance. After a few months Sudhir experienced a need to call them and was surprised that they were either closed for every bank holiday or offered lame excuses of their personnel being busy. He had to repeatedly call for his problem to be attended. It was clear to Sudhir that they were least interested in honouring their part of the deal, now that they had received their payment for the full year.

People with a utility mind set waver their obligations as per their needs. They just see the immediate present and tackle situations for the present. They fail to see the long term ramifications.

People with values have another way of looking at things. They firstly see everything with a long term objective. And secondly, they bring all transactions to their logical end by completing their obligations. Even when they are dissatisfied they complete the tasks or financial obligations and may choose not to deal with the person again. They recognize the need of an implied obligation to fulfil their part of the deal irrespective of whether they have any utility for the person.

We don’t go running away from our values. We go drifting away, and one day wake up in a place we never meant to be, drifting in a direction we would have never chosen. – John G. Blumberg

Some may get away with it, some wont. It is all about the way you look at things. Speeding may get you to the destination faster, and you may even be lucky to reach unhurt. But it will never justify the rash driving.

Utilities may discount, but values, always count.

Very insightful thought. Most well meaning people unknowingly tread this path and feel surprised at the way people react without realizing that their utilitarian mentality has lead to that. Establishing and cherishing a value driven relationship is a long term strategy and this articles has captured that very well. Thank you Mr. Agarwal.

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