From the Publisher
More often than not, companies face the challenge of differentiating themselves from each other–a tricky process, but one that can be accomplished through careful planning, Harari promises. Focusing on exposure and profitability, he proposes a four-pronged process for moving into the lead, including having a contrarian mindset, a willingness to cast aside perceptions, exceptional follow-through and disciplined focus, and integrity and courage. While acknowledging that it's easy to be ahead one moment and behind the next, he also observes that if your products become irrelevant, then your company will, too. To avoid that fate, he points to the Madonna Effect, reasoning that the pop star has had such a sustainable career because she has continually reinvented herself for two decades, and that regularly reinventing your business can provide similar effects for your company. He also advocates the Willie Nelson Principle: jumping in front of a movement that is already successful, re-creating it for your own advantage and leading from there. While he isn't alone in his major emphasis–that "to break from the pack, you must dominate some significant area of the market"–his primer offers many useful, concrete tools for doing it.
--Publisher's Weekly, June 19th Edition
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
Everywhere, products are being commoditized, services are being imitated, and traditional barriers to market entry are collapsing. You can't survive on "me-too" products, services and business models, and the ever-popular "all things to all people" approach will fail you every time.
To sustain a competitive advantage in today's "Copycat Economy," you must break from the pack. Companies that break from the pack take customers far beyond mere satisfaction. These companies tend to go beyond the mission statement to a "higher cause." They build a pipeline of cool, compelling products and always manage to stay way ahead of their industries.
In every industry, a very small number of organizations are fast, fit, healthy and clearly at the forefront. They are followed by a few pretty good wannabes nipping at their heels. These groups are clearly ahead of "the pack" — that large, undifferentiated bulk of companies of all shapes and sizes that don't stand out and don't draw the kind of positive attention from customers and investors that they'd like.
Anyone Can Break Away
Any organization can successfully bust loose in any direction from the round-and-round-we-go pack mentality, as long as that direction has a radically compelling value proposition, hard economic logic and fast efficient execution.
The bad news is that in a global free market, the pack is bigger than ever before — and continues to get bigger as the race progresses! The pack grows, more players run earnestly, the racers constantly check each other out, and they mimic each other's movements.
The result is the Copycat Economy, an arena marketed by "me-too" mimicry and lots of commoditized products and services. As a leader, helping your organization stand out and win in a Copycat Economy is the most important strategic challenge you will face during the remainder of this decade.
The compulsion to ask customers what they want can leave you reactive and fossilized. Breaking from the pack requires you to lead customers to a place they didn't ask to go and didn't know existed.
Market leaders who break from the pack pull the customer to new places. They don't simply respond to the consumer: They take some chances that push them past their market research. Before Starbucks, how many consumers would have assured Howard Schultz they would stand in line to spend $4 for a cup of coffee in a paper cup?
Dominate or Leave
In today's Copycat Economy, you must choose your markets, products and customers very carefully, then go in with tremendous creative and productive force until you dominate the arenas you've selected. The implications are twofold: One, don't enter any space you're not prepared to dominate. Two, once you figure out what you will dominate, exit everything else. Period.
"One-stop-shopping" should be eliminated from corporate strategy sessions; the phrase is diabolical, making otherwise sensible executives salivate with infantile glee. Their eyes glaze as they visualize hordes of customers. However, to challenge the famous Field of Dreams dictum, if you keep on building it, they probably won't come. And then you're stuck with a big stadium.
Apart from those darn customers who insist on making their own decisions, there's another reason why "one-stop-shopping" is a fantasy. No matter what your consultants and investment bankers tell you, you can't be great in everything, you can't do it all, and if you try to do it all, you'll wind up with a big diversified menu of undistinguished "me-too" products and services, while dominating nothing.
You, the Leader of the Pack: A 12-Step Recovery Program
To add some serious value to both your organization and your career prospects, you will need to move beyond nostrums. You will need to get down to the bare-knuckles basics of leadership. This "12-Step Program" is designed to put you on the path to success.
Step 1: First, Admit You're a Commodity
Step 2: Take a Risk on Risk
Step 3: Set "The Way"
Step 4: Believe that Customers are More Important Than Investors and Employees
Step 5: Unleash Talented Maniacs
Step 6: Rev Up Your Base
Step 7: Get Personally Engaged
Step 8: Lead From a Glass House
Step 9: Honor a Minimal Number of Priorities
Step 10: Team Up with Aliens
Step 11: Lead from the Middle
Step 12: Know When to Hold, Know When to Fold Copyright © 2006 Soundview Executive Book Summaries