June 10, 2010

How do you define wealth?

I spent this evening at a Knowledge Cafe, essentially a guided and open-ended conversation. The topic was "Assessing, Increasing and Managing 21st Century Wealth for Individuals, Organizations and the World". Three questions were presented for discussion:
  1. What is 21st Century Wealth?
  2. How should wealth be measured today?
  3. What’s the role of knowledge in 21st century wealth?
The discussion in my small group was interesting, and we talked about knowledge as currency, mass production as a means of increasing wealth for the masses, and, mostly, about defining wealth holistically. That is, wealth as a measure of health, safety, connectedness, freedom and self-determination.

The evening was best summed-up by this story offered by a gentlemen at the closing group discussion:
I work at a nursing home. At nursing homes, it is not uncommon for the male residents to get dressed in the morning, and attempt to leave the premises, as if they are going to work. They insist that they must get to their jobs. Now, these men were retired, some for decades, before entering the nursing home, so they are not doing this as a force of habit. Nor is it about the need for a paycheck. Rather, these men want to go to work because of their need for self worth, identity, and dignity.

I've previously explored the need to clearly define values through story, in the essay, The Trouble with Values, accessible here.

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