Let’s talk “Competitive Advantage”. What makes you and/or your business better than others? If you can answer that question – and convey that answer to others, you’re bound to increase your likelihood of success dramatically. I’d like to offer three keys for you to consider:
Key #1: Working Hard
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But how many people and businesses just don’t do this. They are lazy, or don’t dot the i’s and cross the t’s, or don’t go the extra mile.
What does “working hard” mean in everyday work? Here are some things people or businesses that work hard do:
- They are physically fit and active – so they have the energy to work hard
- They get excited about the challenge of business and throw themselves into it “whole hog”
- They get tremendous satisfaction from doing not just a “good job” but an excellent one
- They don’t cut corners, but rather do a thorough job
- They marshal their time effectively, and don’t have “down time” – they’re always working on something important.
There was a time when working hard was enough to get ahead, especially if you worked harder than the competition. But now that’s no longer enough. Since we arrived in the Information Age, there’s more we need to be excellent at – but while still working hard.
Key #2: Working Smarter
In the latter part of the 20th Century, the business world discovered the power of the Mind. Concepts such as the Learning Organization (Senge: The Fifth Discipline) and Intellectual Capital (Thomas Stewart) showed that corporate success was all about mining the power of Mind. We observed that those who expanded the Mind and used it well were the ones succeeding.
Jack Welch, then CEO of GE, said, “We are trying to differentiate GE competitively by raising as much intellectual and creative capital from our work force as we possibly can. That is a lot tougher than raising financial capital, which a strong company can find in any market in the world.”
So therefore, to succeed it’s imperative to Work Smarter, but what does that mean? Here are some steps for doing that.
- Relish learning – new things in your field or industry, but also learning outside your field. Why? Because by expanding your mind, you may well see new ways of succeeding.
- Stand back from the things you do – and ask yourself (and others), How can we do that better?
- Get training (and arrange for your people to get training) to improve their skills.
- Periodically, set out to improve a process that you do repetitively. That’s to break through the natural bonds of tradition and uniformity.
- Take on a completely different responsibility, just so you learn it. Similarly, rotate your people through different functions, so they learn more about the various aspects of the company.
Working Smarter, along with Working Hard, is key to success. But we’re finding increasingly that they are not enough. One more ingredient is needed now for uncommon success.
Key #3: Working Nobly
The first two keys could be said to be about the Human Doer and the Human Thinker. This third key is about the Human Being. Key #2 taps Mind power. Key #3 taps Heart power, which means who we are, and how we relate to others. Whereas Key #2 concentrates on building and utilizing Intellectual Capital, Key #3 focuses on building and utilizing Spiritual Capital, the human spirit that is so often underutilized in companies.
Here’s how one highly successful CEO, Herb Kelleher (of Southwest Airlines) put it: “I’ve tried to create a culture of caring for people in the totality of their lives, not just at work. There’s no magic formula. It’s like building a giant mosaic – It takes thousands of little pieces….The intangibles are more important than the tangibles. Someone can go out and buy airplanes from Boeing and ticket counters, but they can’t buy our culture, our esprit de corps.”
It’s about the company being a collection of human energies, about the quality as well as quantity of those energies, and how they flow through people to create value. Since that draws on Heart energy, it’s about purpose, joy, connection and caring.
In my book NOBLE ENTERPRISE: The Commonsense Guide to Uplifting People and Profits, I write about nobility and identify five pillars that are built into a noble enterprise that help it succeed. These are:
- Greater Purpose
- Ethical Values
- Human Growth
- Freedom within Structure
- Unity Mindset
If you can build these five “pillars” into your own work and into your company (while still also building keys number 1 and 2), you’ll succeed far beyond the norm, and may well become the leader in the field/industry.
Introducing the Noble Enterprise Pathway (NEP) Program to Success
To help you and your organization build and utilize these five pillars, so that you can strengthen your competitive advantage, I developed the NEP program, consisting of several working sessions for groups of employees. It’s based on the successful seminar we have led for several years at the Olin Business School’s Executive Program at Washington U in St Louis.
For information go to the website, and/or contact me directly.