Getting and Staying Ahead

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What does it take to get ahead and stay ahead in business? Rich Kalgaard, publisher of Forbes magazine, entrepreneur and investor, tackles that question in his new book, The Soft Edge, and there are important lessons in it for all of us.

TriangleofLongTermSuccessUsing personal health as an analogy, where the Lasting Health triangle consists of three sides representing physical, social, and mental/emotional Health, he builds a similar triangle for Sustainable Business Health. The base consists of Strategy – which includes the five forces noted by Michael Porter: market, customers, competitors, substitutes and disruptors. The second side focuses on the Hard Edge, which he believes is dominating today’s conversation in many businesses, and includes capital efficiency, logistics, supply chain, cost and speed. The third side, builds on Tom Peters’ and Bob Waterman’s observation in their book, In Search of Excellence, that it’s the soft-stuff, like grit courage, passion and purpose, that are critical. Calling their third side, the Soft Edge, he calls the key elements Trust, Smarts, Teams, Taste and Story.

Using examples from top companies, like Northwestern Mutual, Mayo Clinic, FedEx and Apple, he demonstrates how these winning companies use these five elements:

  • Trust – creating an environment for employees, customers and investors that engenders trust and propels high performance.
  • Smarts – with the technical information we obtain in formal education becoming outdated over time, how companies encourage employees to stay current and release their creativity is key.
  • Teamwork – with collaboration and innovation essential for companies wanting to compete against competitors, especially in a global economy, employees need to maximize their potential through lean teams with cognitive diversity.
  • Taste – while clever product design and integration as proxies for intelligence by making customers feel smart, Steve Jobs knew we have to go farther and create a deep emotional engagement. Specialized Bicycles calls this “the sweet spot between data truth and human truth”.
  • Story – creating a powerful narrative is key to sustained growth, You need to tell your company story in a way that your customers, fans and critics can adapt it to tell it their way, since, in a world of social media, they often exercise the louder voice.

As you design and launch your 2015 business plan for increased success, make sure you’re also taking the Soft Edge into account. The book is an easy, informative and inspiring read. Then share with us which elements you felt your company needs to spend more attention on this year in order to achieve your goal – increased growth in 2015 and the ability to sustain it in the long-term!