In every corner of our economy, there is a search for growth and opportunities. Organizations of all sizes and industries, non-profits and even governments are all working on surviving in this new normal.

We are all searching for that elusive “competitive advantage”, an edge that will lead to growth and profitability. Of course this is perfectly logical as we come off five tough years following the Great Recession of 2008. It is also logical given a slow-growth economy that seems to get more competitive everyday.

But what if we are wrong?

What if reconfiguring our current products and services won’t work? What if cost cutting and efficiencies in our core are no longer adequate? What if working harder and harder and more hours isn’t enough anymore? Then what?

Rita McGrath has some thoughts about that. Rita is the Columbia Business School professor and author of the best selling book, The End of Competitive Advantage – How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business. Rita thinks her book title says it all, we are facing the end of competitive advantage (with apologies to Michael Porter) and the beginning of an era of transient advantage, where disruption is constant, like a wave, and we have to learn how to ride it.

We also have to learn how to become systematic and strategic about constant innovation to allow for these constant waves of disruption. This is a fundamental difference in the way we have run most of our organizations in the past. Rita says, “The first challenge is for leaders to be willing to be open to the idea that your advantage might not last.”

Are you at risk of being disrupted? Here are some of the warning signs:

  • I don’t buy my own company’s products or services
  • We are investing at the same levels or even more and not getting margins or growth in return
  • Customers are finding cheaper or simpler solutions to be “good enough”
  • Competition is emerging from places we didn’t expect
  • Customers are no longer excited with what we have to offer
  • We are not considered a top place to work by the people we would like to hire
  • Some of our very best people are leaving
  • The growth trajectory has slowed or reversed

The next question is what do I do, if my advantages are fading?

Rita talks about six key areas in what she calls “The New Strategy Playbook”:

1. Continuous Reconfiguration
2. Healthy Disengagement
3. Deft Resource Allocation
4. Innovation Proficiency
5. Discovery Driven Mindset
6. Entrepreneurial Career Management

Take the survey on page 3 and 4 of the slideshare deck above to see if your organization is positioned to take advantages of transient advantages or is at risk of disruption.

Her research has also identified some key attributes of winning organizations who are successfully figuring out how to work in this era of transient advantage.

  • Ambition or “humbition” – world-class ambitions
  • Deployment & Development of people (think learnability)
  • Strategy and Leadership (vision, values, culture)
  • Stable relationships in their ecosystem(s)
  • Innovation is continuous and part of everyone’s job

The idea of disruption also applies to individuals and careers. Are you working for an organization at risk of disruption but doesn’t realize it? Is your job at risk for disruption? This is what Rita means by Entrepreneurial Career Management and I think she has a point.

What if you could spend a morning with Rita exploring how to think about disruption and growth in a transient advantage world?

The Business Learning Institute of the MACPA is excited to be hosting Rita live on January 30 2014, in Maryland at the BWI Airport Hilton Hotel to talk about the end of competitive advantage. The format will start with Rita and follow up with a “reverse panel” of C-level executives moderated by Joanna Sullivan of the Baltimore Business Journal. We close with a 30 minute workshop for participants to develop their 2014 Strategy Playbook. Details and registration here. Webcast format available if you can’t attend in person.

What do you think? Is it the end of competitive advantage? Are you worried about disruption in your industry or career? How are you dealing with it?

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