Skillsoft Blog

Be The Market Surprise

Much of the conversations we get engaged in with customers often involve
discussion of “How did other companies do it?” – discussions around
benchmarking processes.  Yet most of the emerging ideas in leadership and
talent development we hear from eminent thinkers, researchers and writers warn
of benchmarking to mediocrity.  Stuart
Hart,
author of Capitalism at the Crossroads, has a dynamite quote buried
in the middle of his book:

“A smart strategist gravitates toward ill-defined and ambiguous
opportunities.  That is because once everything has been defined and
reduced to standard operating procedure, there is no money left to be made.” –
Stuart Hart

The point he is making, and the same point Jeffrey Pfeffer, Jonas
Ridderstrale
, Lynda Gratton and
others have made in our interviews, is the same – to be the market surprise,
instead of be surprised, you need to create unique and original ways of
conducting your business.  Lynda Gratton calls this “signature
processes.”  Red Hat is a great example.  We were chatting with a
senior executive at Red Hat and I explained part of a presentation we could
provide which would showcase companies with leading implementation practices
and he stopped me and said, “Look I don’t mean to interrupt but I can’t bring
that story in here.  At Red Hat we do it the Red Hat Way.”  He went
on to say of course they don’t ignore the market landscape or operate in some
creative oasis, but that once they make a bet on a product or service, they
execute their way.  By doing it the Red Hat Way, they also build great
culture and engagement because everyone feels they are part of true creation.

A lifetime ago around 2001, while leading a small start-up we got together
our customer research and stories and dreamed up an online system which could
aid the learner and leader to use, apply, track, and campaign on our video
learning assets.  Then we built the system and when we took it on the road
test, people said, “Oh you’ve built an LMS.”  A what?  “You’ve
created a a Learning
Management System
, although it’s got some stuff we haven’t seen
before.”  We had indeed built an LMS before we had ever heard of
one.  Instead of benchmarking LMS vendors (whom we didn’t know existed),
and listening to our customers instead, we created something unique and did it
with passion and energy because we believed in our originality and our ability
to create a killer app.  The tip coming from emerging leadership is this:
pay attention to the market yes, but be bold and original in what – and
importantly how – you execute.

By: Shawn Hunter

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