Are You Depreciative?

Depreciation is a term used in accounting, economics and finance to spread the cost of an asset over the span of several years (Wikipedia, 2010).

Have you ever wondered if we’ve spread the idea of depreciation too far?  Like, to people?  To clients and customers?

I read Simon Sinek’s wonderful story of how the U.S. Marine Corps looks after its wounded.  Clearly, the Marines do not depreciate their human assets. Instead, they demonstrate an inefficient devotion to those who’ve stepped forward, taken the challenge, and become one of the few, one of the proud.

How many organizations can claim such a devotion to and from their members?

Sometimes mutual loyalty gets tossed aside in the race toward low prices and growth.  When your battling to be the low cost provider, you probably can’t afford to show loyalty (much less, devotion) to your customers and your employees.  Sinek writes about the Marines sending an officer from the battle theater to escort the wounded (and fallen) home.  That’s highly inefficient. But it’s the kind of devotion that makes the Marines the Marines. And such devotion stands out.

Strangely, there was no one there from the Army. But the Marines had taken two officers out of theater for the sole purpose to escort these two wounded comrades from the front lines back to the United States. That was their entire responsibility.

Many organizations, it seems, depreciate humans right along with drill-presses. Once the hoopla of the launch dies down, we stop thinking about that customer and head out to find some new ones.  Eventually, that customer whose business we celebrated with a raucous happy hour disappears into the clutches of a competitor.  And we race to court a new one.

What if we just stopped depreciating people and started dating them all over again?  What if we applied courting rituals to relationships with the clients and employees we already have?  Wouldn’t that be easier and more effective than finding new ones?