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Sustaining Your Advantage

rear view mirrorLook
in the rearview mirror and what do you see? Where you’ve been! Easy
enough, but most people don’t realize this is what they’re seeing when
they look at data
or listen to experience.
While certainly valuable, they are not an indicator of what is
possible… simply what has been. Yet, when it comes to certainty,
nothing can beat the past.

That
said, there is more to be seen in the rear view than where you’ve been.
This is why we position it in easy view. It offers important
information about what’s coming up behind us.  While this is
important to successful driving, it’s not as critical as what’s
directly in our path.

headlampsIn business we detect that which is just
ahead primarily through the twin forces of customer needs
and business
challenges
These are our headlamps, lighting what
we need to deal with next. Sometimes they overlap, when customer needs are our business challenges. Other
times they stand on their own. Together they show us what is imminent.

Customer needs
could appear as a new demand we are unprepared to meet; for example, a
printer starts getting requests to print skin (bioprinting uses inkjet technology
to construct skin, cartilage, bone, and other body parts).

Business challenges
show up when profits start shrinking, cash flow becomes an issue,
reserves are jeopardized, etc. For example, commoditization of a key
offering reduces your profits as customers go elsewhere to get the same
service.

Dealing effectively with impending cirumstances is of the utmost
import, but it is not where true advantage resides. Knowing the future
is the best possible advantage. 
However, what you gain in advantage, you lose in certainty:
certain advantage

So, how do you realistically sustain advantage given that there are no
crystal balls? Here are three ways:
1. Deepen your
understanding of the current circumstances.
Investigate customer
needs and requests with vigilance while simultaneously attending to
business challenges with diligence.

2. Identify emerging
trends and innovations in your field.
Do not let breakthroughs in your area of expertise go
unnoticed. To really get ahead, convene thought leaders, interview
successful entrepreneurs, actively collect news and advances, then
analyze and synthesize it for application.

3. Set the agenda
for your customers, members, and stakeholders.
Do not wait for
them to “get it.” Make sure they understand the important issues –
frame it for them – give them the opportunity to participate in the
toughest and the hottest issues.

Lead the way into the future. You don’t have to be on the bleeding
edge, but you do have to be up front. That’s where the action is.
That’s where advantage is certain.


May 2011 eventSpeaking of being up front… Join me May 12 & 13 in
Wash, DC, for this very amazing and unique event. These two days,
hosted by
Steve Denning and me, will be dedicated to remaking the management
mindset; that is, reinventing business, government, education, and
health. Attendance is limited to a small group of 30 participants and
seats are almost sold out! Only 5 left!!!...
All information is here.