What are you NOT the best at?

Deciding what you’re NOT is just as important as determining what you ARE.

I had the great fortune of attending YPO Vancouver’s executive learning event, featuring Harvard Professor Ranjay Gulati. After an entire day of insightful and relevant content, Professor Gulati gave the participants the simple task of taking away one piece of actionable information from the sessions on disruptive innovation, silo-bridging, and level 5 leadership.  My personal challenge is pulling just one nugget of wisdom, but I have finally settled on what resonated the most…

Taking the time to identify what your competitive disadvantage is. That is, taking the time to become very clear on what your product, service or company isn’t (or isn’t great at.)

Business owners and leaders are often high-achievers. We love to be great. We love to excel. We are competitive and we want to be awesome!  Sometimes, this need for greatness can be our downfall; wanting and needing to be everything to everyone. But in doing so, we often lose ourselves and inevitably become mediocre at best.

To determine what you’re going to be not great at, Professor Gulati suggested an exercise where you list the main attributes that your organization could have. From there, rank in the order of  how your business does or should measure against each attribute.

To demonstrate this exercise, Professor Gulati used Southwest Airlines as an example. On the list were a series of attributes that an airline could have, ranging from food service offering to cheap prices to friendly service. Then, he showed how Southwest Airlines ranks these attributes, whereby cheap pricing and friendly service ranked at the top two, and items such as on-flight entertainment and food service offerings ranked at the bottom two. Southwest Airlines became very clear not only about who they are and what they offer, but also about who they are not and what they won’t offer.

Think about your own business. Think about the list of attributes a company within your industry could offer: friendly service, prestigious service, convenience, quality, locations, responsiveness, low price, etc. Then, see if it’s crystal clear about both what your business both is and is not.