Tuesday, January 27, 2009

This IS your competitive advantage

I came across an interesting article from Michael Cayley. He's been working on a measurement tool for Social Capital. The goal is to quantify the social media impact on an organization so that investors can access value based on a companies social capital- similar to brand valuation tools that are now prominently used.

I'm not sure if this methodology is where we should be heading (that's a different blog post), but Michael brings up a great point about the true comparative advantage that many companies ignore in today's market...

"People are the best source of comparative advantage"

As most of the companies we rely on for products and services are only marginally different from their competitor the value each that these companies provide in comparison to their competitor continues to shrink (think telecommunications, grocery stores, car manufacturers, food franchises, box stores, accounting companies, computer companies, this list could go on for ever.). Technology, processes and service delivery are all very 'open source' in our information rich society. Most companies continue to try and differentiate value based on old school thinking:
  • We have better technology (for now)
  • We are first to market (but forgive us for the lack of support)
  • We are cheap
  • We offer out-of-the-box value (whatever your definition of value is - we got it).
  • Our brand is clean, our employees are people too (but you can't talk to them and they can't talk to you) so please be our friend.
Companies can no longer afford to ignore their single largest source of growth - their employee base. Their own people are their best competitive advantage. You can't duplicate an individual and a healthy social corporate culture only increases a brands strength.

You may need to change the way you hire or the way you manage. There may be no story for your company to tell - which is probably the biggest reason your organization struggles to share its value proposition.

Build a story then let your employees share and manage it. Let go a little - soon you'll have a fan base, engaged customers, and something worth talking about.