Bob Sutton, Stanford professor, has a short but thought provoking article in Harvard Business Online.
To return to my colleague and friend Jeff Pfeffer, this pattern is consistent with what we discovered as we were writing Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense. Great leaders and firms often “win” by doing mundane things well. Think of Southwest Airline’s Chairman and Founder’s Herb Kelleher saying “Airplanes don’t make any money when they are sitting on the ground.” Or of George Zimmer, CEO and Founder of The Men’s Wearhouse, building a business model around the notion that most of his customers would rather not actually be in his stores buying suits. Wal-Mart Founder Sam Walton’s motto, “everyday low prices,” may have had some controversial effects, but is a simple idea that shapes many, many actions at the discount giant. It was essential to its becoming the biggest retailer in the world.
While strategy is important, it doesn’t have to be complex. Execution is the difference between success and failure.
Similarly, research on what leads to effectiveness says that the answer with the biggest impact is often absurdly simple at first glance. For example, the most powerful personality variable for predicting performance is conscientiousness. Does the person usually do what he or she commits to do? Is he or she reliable and hardworking?
The takeaway: Find something importantly simple that no-one else is doing and do it well.
Hat Tip: Rob at Businesspundit