As any corporate speaker worth their weight in clever stories and insights can tell you, succeeding in business has never been easier in some ways—or more difficult, in others.
We have more tools at our disposal than ever before—things like cloud storage, online and video collaboration platforms, and front- and back-end software solutions that automate a plethora of business activities, as well as cutting-edge apps for smartphones (mini supercomputers, really)… and that’s only the tip of the functional iceberg.
But despite the myriad solutions and opportunities now available to organizations and professionals of every field and background (even for us corporate speakers), in other ways, successfully taking a product or service to market and keeping it in front of customers has never been harder. Everything around us is constantly changing; markets, best practices and customer expectations are consistently evolving; and our competitors are simultaneously growing and availing themselves of similar talent, technology and techniques. All are increasingly being forced to iterate and innovate at seemingly breakneck speeds.
The fundamental problem: How are we to achieve competitive advantage if we’re constantly forced to play catch-up—let alone establish relevancy and meaningful distinction in the eyes of the world? With connectivity and globalization leveling the playing field, and agility and adaptability becoming equally viable sources of strength as size and scale, it’s all too easy to become a faceless commodity—or worse, painfully outdated. It’s up to you to make sure you’re neither.
The modern era has brought with it the arrival of near-infinite competition—rest assured that if a task can be done better, faster, and cheaper, it will. In the connected age opinions travel further, faster and carry more lasting weight than ever before—even if audiences’ opinions and insights are overlooked or neglected, their voice will find ways to be heard. And the massive explosion in scope of a free market that’s grown seemingly overnight to include rivals from every industry, corner of the world and commercial mindset simply reinforces the law of evolution—we’re watching survival of the fittest play out before us at a record-breaking clip.
Ultimately, any pathway you choose to travel (no matter where or how fast) now leads to a single destination and decision: Will you be remarkable or replaced? To survive, you only have one viable choice: To become essential, and make yourself, your business or your brand tremendously hard to replace. In short, to achieve any measure of lasting success, the service, products, and/or connections you provide today must be singular—unique—and by that we mean able to deliver an exceptional or exclusive value proposition. You must make yourself, your business or your brand so compelling, so powerfully impactful or so painful to abandon that the opportunity costs of doing so vastly outweigh the upsides. In this way you build leverage — and effectively make yourself or your team dangerously difficult, if not impossible, to push out the door.
To do this, it’s critical that you or your organization gain skills, insights and access to connections that few others possess, or provide singular benefits and expertise others will be challenged to replicate—the point is to cultivate scale and gaps. This requires being willing to dive into difficult tasks, spot issues others can’t and solve uncommon problems—all hard challenges, but that’s the point. By doing so, you’ll not only gain difficult to replicate skills and avail yourself of opportunities, benefits and connections that others deprive themselves of. You’ll also discover how to bring individuals, teams and networks of organizations together in ways rivals can’t.
As we corporate speakers often remind audiences, successful leaders realize relevancy is a moving target. To this extent, it’s imperative that organizations and individuals constantly reinvest in education, growth and strategic innovation. If we’re not constantly experimenting, trying, and doing, and working to proactively address rising opportunities, threats and trends, we’re effectively staying static. However, the world around us—including competitors, tools, trends, industries and even customer expectations—continually marches on. To promote ongoing growth and success, we must be willing to constantly learn, change and adapt as well: It’s the only way to continuously succeed in a constantly-changing world – and the ultimate secret to future-proofing.
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