Finding Value in Unexpected Places

Over the last year, I have been exhaustively researching the term “quality” and what constitutes it. I have read ISO standards, other companies’ public quality documents, auditor training courses and even internet forums dedicated to the discussion of competing quality management systems. Through this, I have become increasingly convinced that many of the existing systems could more aptly be named “value management systems”. After all, we are not talking about quality in terms of iPhone vs. Samsung, metal vs. plastic etc., we are talking about a more formulaic and tangible characteristic; more precisely, the effective addition of value to resources to create a product that delights customers.

While reading the news recently, I came across a perfect example of this concept. In this example the resource used is actually garbage from a landfill which is then infused with value in a number of ways, namely craftsmanship, training and practice. The end product is a performance, which is delighting audiences around the world and has already spawned a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary and a subsequent world tour. The group is known as the Recycled Orchestra.

The orchestra resides in a Paraguayan slum named Cateura. The locals live mostly in poverty making a living by sorting through some 1500 tons of solid waste that is delivered each day in search of recyclables that can be resold. When a violin shell turned up in the landfill it was plucked by a local and cleverly fastened into a working violin using kitchen utensils, sheet metal and some scrap wood. The resulting instrument is according to Favio Chavez, the orchestra’s director, worth more than the average home in Cateura. This one violin started an avalanche of instrument building which now includes other stringed instruments and even woodwinds.

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With a now steady supply of instruments the local youth began playing these instruments under the instruction of Favio. The town suffers from a non-existent education system and widespread illiteracy, and Favio is adding value to the lives of these children by teaching them a skill and a language. The children now perform together as an orchestra and the end product has been a massive success.

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The Recycled Orchestra proves that it’s not always about your resources; it’s about your ability to effectively create value. Any business will benefit by getting a grip on how they add value to their raw materials, allowing them to control the process and fully unlock the potential of their products.

How do they sound? Click here to check it out!

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