The idea of quality typically goes unexamined until we observe business terminology. However, from a philosophical perspective, quality is an interesting and relevant term used to describe how effectively an object or service performs for its customers. The following paper will talk about quality as being a combination of innate features and quality of use, or practicability.
Innate quality and quality of use can mean two different things, even though they are both focused on how effective a product or service is (or its effectiveness potential). I equate the term ‘innate’ with inherent, or compromising the original essence of a thing. For instance, someone could have an innate talent for making music without any prior education. Quality of use is how the object or service performs for someone else. With this considered, I believe it is a fundamentally instrumental concept.
The two senses of quality can be distinguished if we look at how services and products function. Something can be innately good, such as a new computer with the right specifications, and it performs well in an instrumental sense. It can also be innately good, such as a musical band, but perform poorly because of external circumstances. For instance, one musical group that goes around performing at weddings has a difficult time securing work because they are not formally educated. In this case, the quality of their music may be innately good, but they do not have the formal qualifications to prove it.
In the end, when it comes to economic demands and values, quality of use (or how effectively an object or service can be used), is more important than innate quality. Something can be innately good or effective, but it requires the correct vehicles to increase its message. For instance, there may be a man who is very good at giving massages. The fact that he is better than anyone he knows suggests this is a talent of his but he fails to proliferate or sell this service in any way, losing quality of value. In other words, his craft lacks instrumentality and practicality.
Commoditization is the process of treating something as though it was only a product or service for sale and economic value drives quality. This is typically referred to as a capitalist way of thinking. Within a capitalist system, items are commodities as they are sold to the highest bidder. Under this structure, quality drives economic value, so that objects or services considered high quality are usually more expensive. For instance, I can purchase a real leather couch or a faux leather couch. The faux leather will be of lower quality, and will thus be cheaper.
Because our mentalities are tied up with notions of capitalism and economic considerations about quality, we tend to think of objects that are more expensive as having higher quality. Is this always the case, however? Consider the difference between H&R Block, for instance, and a private accountant who specializes in doing taxes. Using the services of H&R Block usually costs substantially more money than using a private accountant, who may do accounting as a small, side business. Yet, private accountants seem to do the same job if not even better than large, professional corporations.
If good products can be cheaper, is quality the opposite of commoditization, then? In fact, the example with H&R Block versus the private accountant would seem to suggest that quality does not discriminate based on the amount of money it requires. A small-time editor, working out of his basement, can edit a novel just the same way a large-scale publishing house can, just for less money. Both include those who have innate qualities and skills, such as mastery over the English language. If this is the case, then is quality more innate than it is commoditized?
We can argue here that with these considerations in mind, quality can be viewed as an adequate combination of both commodity and innate qualities. Effective usability, or quality of use, is characterized by being practicable. On the other hand, objects and services also have innate quality, which they can display regardless of being used or not. From a consumer and business perspective, to flourish, objects and services must display both innate quality and quality of use, meaning they should be made available to and considered effective by the public.
Quality is not something we think about daily, but it is extremely important and certainly not an outdated or overused concept. Quality relates to many things in life such as relationships, academia, jobs and items and services purchased over the years. While the quality of a radio may not be as important as the quality of a relationship, we nevertheless use the term ‘quality’ to judge both.
From a business perspective, quality is pointless unless it has innate quality (e.g. something that makes it good, whether this is talent or physical features) and usability, or quality of use. Quality of use can be seen in the numerous ways we handle objects as things that serve us. Indeed, in many cases, a good quality product can be the difference between life and death. Such is the case of heart monitors, defibrillators and other hospital equipment. If such pieces of equipment were of low quality, this could cause disastrous consequences, such as people dying on operating tables. Something must also be practically usable to display good quality.
Effectively, quality is something usually applied to business terms and equated with markets. Customers who pay higher amounts for products or services expect these to exhibit higher quality, if only because of the price. This can vary, however, because a good quality service can be bought for a lower price, if the customer wants to search in his or her area for local enterprises. Quality does not have to be equated purely with market value. For true quality to exist, the product or service must display a high level of effectiveness, whether it is expensive or not, and must be completely usable.
This personal philosophy of quality considers, then, that there are innate features of services and objects that make them superior to others, but that quality must ultimately be entrenched in practicability. Objects and services must be usable to have quality. Rather than viewing quality as commoditization, we can view it as an important characteristic of humanity that has made bartering and human civilizations and societies based on trust entirely possible.