Myth of Excellence: Why Great Companies Never Try to Be the Best at Everything

Myth of Excellence: Why Great Companies Never Try to Be the Best at Everything

by Fred Crawford, Ryan Mathews
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Myth of Excellence: Why Great Companies Never Try to Be the Best at Everything by Fred Crawford, Ryan Mathews

The Undiscovered Consumer . . .and the Mistake of Universal Excellence

What do customers really want? And how can companies best serve them? Fred Crawford and Ryan Mathews set off on what they describe as an "expedition into the commercial wilderness" to find the answers. What they discovered was a new consumer -- one whom very few companies understand, much less manufacture products for or sell products or services to. These consumers are desperately searching for values, a scarce resource in our rapidly changing and challenging world. And increasingly they are turning to business to reaffirm these values. As one consumer put it: "I can find value everywhere but can't find values anywhere."

Crawford and Mathews's initial inquiries eventually grew into a major research study involving more than 10,000 consumers, interviews with executives from scores of leading companies around the world, and dozens of international client engagements. Their conclusion: Most companies priding themselves on how well they "know" their customers aren't really listening to them at all. Consumers are fed up with all the fuss about "world-class performance" and "excellence." What they are aggressively demanding is recognition, respect, trust, fairness, and honesty.

Believing that they are still in a position to dictate the terms of commercial engagement, businesses have bought into the myth of excellence -- the clearly false and destructive theory that a company ought to be great at everything it does, that is, all the components of every commercial transaction: price, product, access, experience, and service. This is always a mistake because "the predictable outcome [is] that the company ends up world-class at nothing; not well-differentiated and therefore not thought of by consumers at the moment of need."

Instead, Crawford and Mathews suggest that companies engage in Consumer Relevancy, a strategy of dominating in one element of a transaction, differentiating on a second, and being at industry par (i.e., average) on the remaining three. It's not necessary for businesses to equally invest time and money on all five attributes, and their customers don't want them to. Imagine the confusion if Tiffany & Co. started offering deep discounts on diamonds and McDonald's began selling free-range chicken and tofu.

The Myth of Excellence provides a blueprint for companies seeking to offer values-based products and services and shows how to realize the commercial opportunities that exist just beyond their current grasp -- opportunities to reduce operating costs, boost bottom-line profitability, and, most important, begin to engage in a meaningful dialogue with customers.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307422194
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/18/2007
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 272
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

FRED CRAWFORD is executive vice president and global sector leader of Cap Gemini Ernst & Young's consumer products, retail, and distribution consulting practice. From his base in New York City he travels the globe working with senior executives on how to reach today's elusive consumer.

RYAN MATHEWS is a principal at FirstMatter LLC, a leading futurist firm that works with companies such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Grey Advertising, General Motors, Georgia-Pacific, and Coca-Cola to anticipate the trends shaping corporate America, global business, and e-commerce.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Myth of Excellence: Why Great Companies Never Try to Be the Best at Everything 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Can't say enough good things about this book. If you work on business strategy, your job is done. This is some heavy-duty reconnaissance into the mind of your customer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much. In it I saw many of the reason why a company often comes out with the wrong products and its customers end up being so dissatisfied. I worked for many years in R&D and encountered departmental bickering and egotistical management barriers to communicating with the expert marketing folks. They were as frustrated as we were because inflexible, over-diversified company goals prevented us from satisfying our company's customer demands for specifically requested new products. If you'd like to see frank reasons why customers remain unsatisfied and novel customer requested products don't hit the market, then I recommend the many workplace truths behind the candid, sharp humor in the hilarious satire, MANAGEMENT BY VICE, by author C.B. Don. And if you've ever wondered why a company with a thriving R&D does not deliver the novel goods and looses millions in potential profits, then this is the book to read as a behind-the-scenes R&D folks' perspective on the to-the-point issues covered in 'The Myth of Excellence'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best book I've read in a few months. Ever wonder why people love going to Jack in the Box more than McDonald's, or why people like K-Swiss shoes more than Nike's. This book explains it all. It is a masterful work from a group of undergraduate researchers who have the passion for money. Great book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Summary: Think of this book as an update of The Discipline of Market Leaders as applied to consumer products and services companies. The conclusions are based on a suvey of 5000 consumers and reveal deep discontent with the many manipulative practices that companies use. The authors identify the key dimensions of any consumer products or services company as being defined by price, product, access, service, and experience. The key lesson is to pick one area to outperform everyone else, one area to be a strength, and not to fall below industry par everywhere else. Almost all consumer companies will benefit from reexamining their business models and execution in light of this book's content. Review: Seldom is a new way of thinking about business models tied to end-user research. That rare linking adds both depth and breadth to the content of The Myth of Excellence. The methodology was a powerful one. Find out from consumers who they like, and why they like them. Take the results, and analyze them for their potential business model choice implications and to spot weaknesses in implementation. If you are like me, you will find some of these dimensions to be a little different than the way you usually think about business models. That's good, because it will stretch your thinking. In particular, the concept of access will be new. The idea is to make it easier to get a broader range of offerings. Think of this as being like a concierge who gets things for you at a fine hotel. You don't know the area, or where the best choices are. The concierge shares that knowledge, and your stay is improved. What hit me most powerfully in this book were the quotes about how angry consumers are about mixed messages out there. For example, many stores say you can take things back . . . but most make the experience of returning items so unpleasant that no one would go back. Or a company may advertise how friendly its stores are, and have large signs about writing personal checks that make it clear that they think the customers are potential fraud artists. A company may promote having low prices, and then raise them by 20 percent connected to giving away something for free that is less valuable. Those examples show hypocritical behavior as well as lack of respect for customers. They think we are very stupid and subservient. Well, your purchases may just go to someone else. These observations were tied to the concept of there being three levels of business relationship: acceptable, preferred, and trusted. The book's point is that the most successful will be trusted based on their outstanding performance in one dimension, strength in another, and dependable performance in everything else. We are all busy and distracted. We need trusted companies who will look out for our interests, so we can spend the time we would normally use checking up on them doing something more urgent and important . . . like be with our children. These examples are also helpfully tied down by many examples of businesses that you know, and new examples from Europe and small companies in the United States that you will not know. I thought the examples were very interesting, and look forward to trying the services and products of these new companies to me like Superquinn in Ireland and Circles in Boston. There is a sort of half science fiction, half tongue-in-cheek section at the end of the book that projects where these levels of performance could be many years in the future. You'll have a good laugh here. The only weakness I saw in the book is the lack of a serious take on how rapidly new elements of consumer business models might emerge, and how rapidly competition will require companies to be excellent in outperforming others in more business model elements. My own research suggests that the standard described in this book will probably be obsolete in the near future. For those who fall well below this standard now, the book will be a superb resource.