Value chain

Artist unknown

Have you ever seen a slide that was so bad, it was like looking at a piece of art? The image in this piece is lightly adapted from a real slide I have come across in my work experience. It was so magnificent that it remains burned in my brain to this day.


Value chain, circa 2010-2019
Artist unknown

Enigmatic, hypnotizing, and understatedly profound, Value Chain brings new meaning to the practice of “business intelligence”. Stunningly original yet hauntingly familiar, each successive viewing brews a unique emotional cocktail of inspiration and deja vu. Like the Sistine Chapel, Value Chain awes at the macro level and enlightens at the micro level.

Like the proverbial Adam, the central “value circle” binds together four settings that independently (yet collectively) whisper the secrets of man(agement). The first secret is “customer intelligence”, a foundational proclamation to “know thy user.” This path is treacherous, yet Value Chain refrains from providing any further detail, perhaps suggesting that recitation of the words may be sufficient to unlocking value. Only fools waste their limited time on earth gathering said intelligence. There are more important things in life, such as attending meetings.

Our gaze is drawn clockwise to a bulleted list, a familiar form presented in an unfamiliar way. By interspersing nouns and verbs within a structure intended to group only one part of speech, the artist makes a bold statement that the objective world and action are inseparable. The answer to “What is our value proposition?” no longer need be constricted to an answer such as “automation”. Our value proposition is also “enable our team”.

Many components remain undeciphered, and it is these little mysteries that have continue to baffle and excite. Is the “product” in “product design” the same or different “tool” that drives “tools for investors and other ecosystem players? Or perhaps the “customer” in “customer experience” is referring to the aforementioned “players”? Who really is the “customer”? Not since the Rosetta Stone has an artifact generated so much scholarly attention.

Unhindered by its own breathtaking audacity, the piece closes the loop with a postmodern take on the oil of the 21st century. While polemics needlessly debate whether data is or is not oil, Value Chain makes a bold statement: data has transcended the material world. Data is created (by “tools”) and creates (“customer intelligence”). It giveth and it taketh away. The singularity is here, and it is written in SQL.

We may never know the identity of the maverick behind this modern masterpiece. How have they answered the age-old question of “what is value?” With a resounding, “we’ll circle back.”