I was reminded this week of a quote that I first heard probably 10 years ago and is, today, even more relevant: “Speed is the only competitive advantage.”

"Speed is the only competitive advantage."

We witness everyday how fast our world is changing and how great ideas today are often soon eclipsed by even better solutions.

Just watch the recognized “most innovative companies,” Amazon, Tesla, Google, as they strive and invest in understanding the “jobs we want to buy” (even if we don’t yet know it…) and then work tirelessly, continuously and quickly towards solutions we will hire.Many of us couldn’t imagine buying shoes and clothes online or expecting next day delivery or using texts as the primary way of communicating or staying in other people’s houses on vacation…

Many of us couldn’t imagine buying shoes and clothes online or expecting next-day delivery or using text messages as the primary way of communicating or staying in other people’s homes while on vacation….

While the statement may be a bit cliché and certainly contains hollow words without real action, it’s true: To stay competitive, businesses must continuously innovate by truly looking at their products and services through eyes other than their own—the eyes of their customers, of their known competitors and, although tough but just as important, their unknown competitors. 

  • How are you tracking true customer satisfaction, customer adaptation, customer feedback, frustrations, needs  and successes? Is it through continuous feedback, like you measure product and services in your own life? (Consider how many times this week you complained or praised products/services you used….)
  • Are you learning every day from your competitors? Do you have a healthy paranoia, a respect for their business? Are you willing to build on their successes and improve on their failures? (I distinctly remember executive-level discussions heavily discounting the world’s largest online retailer because it wasn’t making any money.)
  • How are you watching the future? Are you focused on the bleeding edge, the cutting edge, or are you satisfied to be a follower? Can you see what’s coming and build impactful solutions with that information? Can you see around the corner before your competitors do?

We measure speed both relatively and absolutely—which makes measuring progress tricky and dangerous. Businesses that measure their “speed” improvement against where they were, rather than where they need to be, simply fall behind. They are now followers of the crowd, rather than leaders.

Businesses must embrace a culture and a methodology of speed. 

More next week.