I’m a sucker for strategy books. So as I’ve been reading Good Strategy Bad Strategy, I’ve taken some notes I want to share with you about a very important topic: Competitive Advantage.
Competitive advantage is different today than it was in the industrial era, but these five basic principles still apply:
- The secret to using advantage is understanding this particularity: No one has an advantage at everything.
- For an advantage to be sustained, your competitors must not be able to duplicate it.
- Competitive advantage and financial gain are not the same because some advantages are more interesting than others.
- A competitive advantage is interesting when one has insights into ways to increase its value.
- The connection between competitive advantage and wealth is dynamic. Wealth increases when the demand for the resources underlying competitive advantage increases.
These principles seem to be forgotten to many a strategist. For example, this past weekend I participated in Startup Weekend, and one of the judges focused on the question of “what is your competitive advantage?”. While a valid question, it is not as simple as it sounds. Can you truly come up with a competitive advantage in a weekend? You may, and many believe they do, but a CA on paper is just a hypotheses. We must also remember that internet based business models are very different from industrial models. And so are hybrid business models.
The point is that a competitive advantage isn’t born from a business plan. You can plan and maneuver to put yourself in a position of advantage, but that takes patience and discipline. The only way to know if you have a competitive advantage is put your idea out there and let the market decide.
Anyway, the world looks a lot different today than when Michael Porter released his book. The basic principles of competitive advantage still apply though, but “what” those advantages look like is what’s different.