How often do you get a chance to hear one of the world’s most influential business thinkers tell you how to conquer change and complexity?

Answer: Not very often.

And yet there she was, Rita McGrath, live in Baltimore, telling a select group of MACPA members how to succeed, even while everything they hold sacred is crumbling around them.

McGrath is a regular here at CPA Success — catch up on her earlier nuggets of wisdom here, and here, and here, and here.

This time around, she focused on what she calls “the end of competitive advantage.” You know those things that set you apart from your competition? They don’t set you apart anymore. Everyone has access to the technology, the resources, the data and intelligence that make your offerings unique. And they’re probably offering them more cheaply than you.

So what now?

Time for a reboot.

McGrath offered “a new playbook for strategy” — six rules for how we can stop spinning our wheels and start embracing innovation, collaboration, and new ways of thinking that will truly set us apart. Those who want to succeed going forward, she said, must embrace the following:

Continuous reconfiguration: Small changes and new ideas that build on each other can bring substantial payback over time. Organizations that learn to make small but continuous improvements will slowly pull away from the pack.

Healthy disengagement: The things that once brought us success will eventually hinder our ability to move forward. Knowing when to shut those things down is important, but that’s just the start. Examining what worked, what didn’t, and what lessons we can apply to new initiatives will help us move forward more easily.

Deft resource allocation: Knowing when to shift resources from core initiatives to new ones — and which resources to shift — will be key as we fill our pipeline with the ideas that will become our new competitive advantages.

Innovation proficiency: Innovation itself must become part of our core. How’s that for a paradox? But it can’t be left to chance. It has to be supported by management, resources, and processes. As Tom Hood tweeted, “The problem is not finding good ideas; it’s making innovation systematic.”

A new leadership mindset: Today’s leaders must be discovery-driven, team-building collaborators. They also must be willing to seek out bad news and act on it in a healthy way. “We have the brainpower to solve hard problems,” McGrath said, “but we need to recognize those problems first.”

Entrepreneurial career management: Want to stay relevant to your employer and clients? Start by taking responsibility for your own career. That means constant self-improvement. Learn as much as you can from as many people as you can. Then learn some more.

In short, look forward, not back. Start seizing new opportunities. Spend less time and fewer resources defending your current competitive advantage. And start now.

It won’t be a competitive advantage for long.

Want to know more?
Read McGrath’s latest book, The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business. And keep a look out for more Rita McGrath webcasts from the MACPA and the Business Learning Institute

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