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Have you noticed that it's harder than it's ever been to truly differentiate yourself? That whatever you claim it is that makes you so different, your competitors also say the same thing about themselves? That to your prospects, as well as your current customers, you often look pretty much like everyone else?

Yeah, we notice that too. And when customers can't figure out what makes anyone different, they buy strictly on price, and none of us want to be in that kind of market!

So how is it that some companies manage to stand out year after year in industries that are mostly commoditized? When you examine the research that's been done on this question, you find that the companies that succeed in commoditized environments don't win because of what they offer. No, they win because of how they offer it. It's the experience their people are able to create that makes all the difference.

It's Easy To Copy

You see, whatever product or service you offer that you think separates you from the pack is usually pretty easily copied. And if it's really good, you can bet your competitors will indeed copy it - and usually in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost that it took you to create it!

Product and service innovation is just the price of admission to be in the game. But unless you're the next Apple, it's simply not a sustainable strategy for continued differentiation.

But if you could somehow find a way to get your people to be different than your competitors' people, to perform in different ways and at a different level, to create those different experiences, not only would that be your biggest opportunity for competitive advantage, but it would be your biggest opportunity for a sustainable competitive advantage. Because even when your competitors know that you're winning because of your people, it's a formula they simply won't be able to copy!

It's All About Your Culture

Getting your people to be different is all about your culture. It's about the way things get done in your organization. Done right, it becomes part of the fabric of how your operate, part of your company's very DNA.

When you understand this, you begin to see that working on your culture is not an HR topic. Quite the opposite - it's a financial and strategic topic. In fact, it's one of the most important things you can do to create a sustainable competitive advantage. And what's more critical to your future than that?


Larry Hart

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