Book Review: The Ultimate Competitive Advantage

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The Ultimate Competitive Advantage
by Donald Mitchell and Carol Coles
Berrett-Koehler ©2003
310 pages

Developing a More Profitable Business Model
Leveraging a company’s strengths is crucial to its success in any industry, and the top two executives of Mitchell and Co., a strategy consulting firm, write that continual business model innovation is the key to improving company performance. Offering numerous ways for organizations to maximize their potential through learning, the authors point out the importance of a fundamental business model that profitably provides more benefits for their customers and other stakeholders.

Stories of successful business innovations abound throughout The Ultimate Competitive Advantage, and the authors offer dozens of examples of both large and small companies in numerous industries that were able to increase their performance through continuous learning.

Prepare for the Future
Rather than focus solely on doing better what they did poorly yesterday, the authors write that organizations should be working on what will help them and their stakeholders the most. This should include continually performing business model innovation, finding better ways to prepare for unexpected future events, and invigorating the highest potential performances that supply the most valued benefits. To help companies incorporate these actions into their business plans, the authors detail a management process — combined from the best practices of many of today’s best-performing companies — that can help them pursue all three of these tasks.

The best strategic practices that the authors present have been compiled from a study of top-performing companies, including Dell Computer, EMC, Paychex and Tellabs. Their in-depth investigations and interviews reveal numerous cases of companies that were intensely interested in studying customer and stakeholder needs, rather than simply emulating the best strategic practices of others.

The authors write that the message they hope to deliver is the value of developing and implementing a superior management process that continually improves the ways an organization serves customers and outperforms competitors, while fairly and appropriately rewarding all stakeholders. Throughout The Ultimate Competitive Advantage, the authors show companies how they can plan, start and invest in new businesses; turn new businesses into seasoned operations; turn troubled businesses around; move from a weak position to become an industry leader; and expand the scope, growth and profitability of an industry from a position of leadership.

Companies are vulnerable to competitors when they stop frequently improving their business models. To help executives learn ways to overcome setbacks and improve their own ways of continually reinventing themselves, the authors present numerous stories from companies that started off small and rose to prominence with strategies of continual improvement and reinvention. In each chapter, they present an example or two of a small company that rose to prominence through continuous reinvention, and offer suggestions on how other companies can emulate similar advances in their own industries.

Increased Value at the Same Cost
The authors write that business model obsolescence is the major unperceived opportunity for all businesses, and also a major unperceived threat at the same time. Companies can continually develop and employ better ways to create and serve customers better through the following management process:

1. Examine the most productive areas for business model innovation. This can be done by increasing value without raising prices and costs, as well as adjusting prices to increase sales profitability and eliminating costs that reduce customer and end-user benefits.

2. Provide sustained benefits for all stakeholders. This can be done by further improving the business model and building a buffer for lean times, as well as sharing benefits fairly with all who create them.

3. Expand business model innovation. This involves starting business model innovation ahead of competitors and staying focused, and enhancing an organization’s ongoing business model innovation capability.

4. Pursue higher-potential business model improvement. This is done by focusing on the areas with the highest potential for growth and profitability, and expanding the benefits you provide and share. ~

Why We Like This Book
The authors of The Ultimate Competitive Advantage have provided organizations with a noteworthy perspective on continuous innovation. Their numerous first-hand accounts of companies that were able to continuously change their business model and outsmart competitors provide abundant inspiration for other organizations, regardless of their industries, to use as a road map to future innovations and continued success. ~

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