Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Value of the Intangible

The Value of the Intangible

A few months ago, I wrote briefly about a conversation with a client, where he suggested that Failsafe had better focus on helping its clients "feed the beast" or we'll start losing our clients.  That conversation happened almost a year ago, and it's been on my mind ever since.

In essence, he was talking about focusing on "the measurable bottom-line" -- that everything we do ought to be a slave to that indicator.

A few weeks ago, my daughter shared a Robert Kennedy video she saw on Ted Talks that caused her to want to share her feelings about related issues.  I hope you enjoy her comments.  I did.

Please read her thoughts, and then my final commentary.


I recently graduated with my Mechanical Engineering Degree.  I remember going through my rigorous program at Virginia Tech solving complex problems using differential equations, completing analyses with self-coded programs, and using the solutions I came up with to reinvent my design at hand.  Why am I telling you this?  I love numbers.  I believe in mathematics.  In my college years I believed any problem could be solved with some sort of analysis involving numbers, because numbers matter! 

As my education progressed, I became increasingly interested in the concept of Root Cause Analysis in which my father had dedicated his life.  So one day during my senior year, I asked my dad if he could take me to Alaska, not just to check out the moose, but to see him teach a live audience on his methodology of Root Cause Analysis, which Failsafe calls Latent Cause Analysis.

Prior to my Alaska trip, I wanted to solve world problems utilizing numbers.  After my trip, I struggled with my passion for numbers and a realization of a profoundly deeper truth:

You can measure the tangible all day long, and hope for results, but the only true way to change anything is through the intangible.

The other day, while listening to Ted Talks, I came across a speech by Robert F. Kennedy from March 18, 1968.  I believe is more important today, than ever:

When I heard this, I had chills running up my spine. 

“… it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.   And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.”

Our perceptions need to change.  We are focusing on the wrong things.  We need to realize that focusing on the intangible will inevitably affect the tangible.

I am fortunate that I was able to come into Failsafe Network to remind me on a daily basis that although numbers are important, there is something more significant in life.   It is the intangible - the feelings, thoughts, ideas, and emotions - that make life worthwhile. 

Failsafe’s investigative methodology of Root Cause Analysis focuses on not only the physics of an event, but also on the untouchable and the abstract.  We believe that the truest value of everything lies within the intangible.  

Jessica Nelms Hall


As Robert Kennedy said, our gross national product includes monies spent on our prisons, wars, ammunitions, advertising campaigns for cigarettes, ambulance and emergency room services for gunshot wounds, and the like.

Just as measuring our gross domestic product is a misleading indicator of our nation's success, focusing on corporate profits (or the bottom line) is an equally misleading indicator of corporate success.

After all, what happens to our intangible values when we focus our souls on the wrong thing?

At Failsafe, we are in the business of helping people learn from things that go wrong. Over the years, we have discovered that it's our values, attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions about life that cause ALL our problems.