By Eve Vlemincx.
In the pursuit of organizational success, the desire to be ‘the best’ or ‘the biggest’ often takes center stage. A common misconception is the belief such striving constitutes a solid strategy that can propel a firm forward. However, such approach is flawed. In fact, it lacks the necessary depth and specificity to drive sustainable success. More over, it can lead to a tunnel vision, misguided efforts and a lack of adaptibility. Merely pursuing the goal of being the best or the biggest does not provide a clear roadmap nor a competitive advantage.
External comparison is not a sustainable strategy
Knowing the market and leveraging market position is not the same as making external comparisons an aspirational goal. Yet some firms fall into the trap of believing that being the best or the biggest in their industry is the ultimate goal and a surefire strategy for success. However, this mindset often stems from a competitive, self-centric perspective that can be detrimental to long-term success.
Focusing solely on being the best or outperforming competitors places undue emphasis on external benchmarks and comparisons. It becomes a race to surpass others rather than a thoughtful consideration of how to meet client needs and deliver exceptional value.
Instead, organizations should focus on their own competencies, deliveries and qualities to create a solid foundation for sustainable success.
The Pitfalls of Being the Best
Organizations that excel in a specific domain but fail to adapt to changing trends risk being marginalized. We can draw insights from case studies of companies like Kodak and Blockbuster, which failed to embrace innovation and adapt to emerging market conditions. These cautionary tales demonstrate the consequences of not looking beyond the confines of being the best in one aspect.
Excellence in a specific area does not guarantee overall success if an organization lacks the ability to differentiate itself and stay agile in a dynamic business environment.
Such approach can lead to a narrow-minded mindset that solely reacts to market dynamics rather than proactively shaping them. Instead of continuously striving to outdo competitors, firms should concentrate on developing their own distinctive capabilities and leveraging their core competencies. By understanding their clients, market trends and internal resources, they can carve out a unique position that aligns with their strengths and creates a sustainable competitive advantage.
The Downside of Being the Biggest
Aspiring to become the biggest in terms of size and market share often leads to compromised profitability, operational inefficiencies and a loss of focus on client satisfaction. Blind expansion without a well-defined strategy can result in inflated costs, reduced profitability, and a diluted client experience. Firms that prioritize growth without considering fundamental factors and client-centric service risk diluting their brand and compromising their ability to deliver exceptional solutions.
Being the biggest does not automatically equate to being the best or being able to provide value that meets the evolving needs of clients.
The focus becomes expansion, rather than a strategy that is supported by a solid foundation. This can result in operational inefficiencies, loss of focus, and even financial risks that jeopardize the organization's long-term viability.
The Essence of True Strategic Success
The pursuit of being the best or the biggest is not even a strategy in itself. Achieving true sustainable success in any industry goes beyond simply striving to be the best or biggest. Organizations must transcend these simplistic aspirations and invest in a comprehensive strategic approach that encompasses a deep understanding of their industry, market dynamics, client needs and unique strengths.
It requires the development of a clear and differentiated value proposition that resonates with clients and capitalizes on the organization's distinctive capabilities.
By developing a clear strategy and adopting a strategic mindset, organizations can navigate uncertainties, adapt to changing market conditions and make informed decisions that position them for success in the long run.
Such strategic approach also involves proactively monitoring industry developments and fostering a culture of innovation to stay ahead of the curve and remain relevant in a rapidly evolving business landscape.
Being the best or the biggest is not a strategy in itself. It places too much emphasis on external comparisons and fails to recognize the importance of developing internal competencies and delivering unique value to customers
To achieve sustainable success, firms must shift their mindset from a competitive, self-centric yet external comparison approach to one that focuses on self-improvement, continuous learning, and delivering value to clients and invest in the client experience.
By investing in their own competencies, enhancing their internal processes and fostering a culture of innovation, firms can cultivate a sustainable advantage that sets them apart in the market.
About the Author Eve Vlemincx is a strategic advisor with expertise in a wide array of areas including legal digital transformation, innovation and leadership. She serves as an advisory council member for Harvard Business Review and is a Course Facilitator at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Eve is highly sought after as a keynote speaker and guest lecturer in various professional settings. Notably, she has been honored as a five-time recipient of the Stanford GSB LEAD Award.
Operating at the dynamic intersection of legal and business, Eve holds certifications from esteemed institutions such as Oxford, Harvard, Kellogg and Stanford Graduate School of Business. Additionally, she brings substantial experience as a seasoned lawyer specializing in corporate law and restructurings.
Eve's guiding philosophy is centered on working smarter, not harder, as she helps individuals and organizations navigate the complexities of today's rapidly evolving landscape.