Those who know me (or read my occasional blog posts) know that I am a podcast junkie. My paid media consumption includes not just Netflix and iTunes but also contributions to public radio shows and a membership to Gimlet, a new podcasting company. In fact, it was during an episode of StartUp, a Gimlet podcast that chronicles the beginnings of their company, that I first heard the term “unfair competitive advantage,” and as someone who has now launched two small consulting businesses over the past five years, this concept stuck in my head and I have been considering it ever since.
During the episode in question, Alex Blumberg, Founder and CEO of Gimlet, was asked by one of his investors to explain his “unfair competitive advantage.” Confused at first by the question, Blumberg then realized that he was being asked what it was he did better than anyone else in his field – in the words of comic book characters, his superpower – that would be a big part of his eventual success. Upon reflection, Blumberg was able to articulate his special talent that led to the "secret sauce" that made Gimlet special, and his investors were ultimately satisfied.
This concept of “unfair competitive advantage” rings true to me in three ways. First, as a consultant, the success of any pitch to a prospective client hinges on my ability to sell them on our firm’s ability to provide unique value by meeting their talent management needs. I have had to spend a lot of time over the past six years defining and refining my articulation of my own unfair competitive advantage so I can best explain it to others. For me, I have found that my experience and interest in recruiting, selecting, and matching school leaders and other instructional personnel to positions in innovative district and charter school organizations is my special superpower – and luckily, it’s also something I love doing more than almost anything else.
Second, as Allison and I conceptualized and actualized our vision for Edgility Consulting over these past months, one of the questions we started with and kept returning to time and again was what we as a team could provide to clients and the education sector at large that was unique and of greater value than what either of us could do alone. For us, being able to articulate our collective “unfair competitive advantage” was an important piece of articulating Edgility’s mission and vision for success. We each had slightly different competitive advantages as individuals; coming together, we could expand our ability for impact and increase the value of services we provided to all of our clients. See our “About Us” page for more details!
Finally, every time we work with a client on their talent strategy, compensation structure, recruitment and selection systems, or help a job-seeking candidate decide which role is the best next fit for their career, one of the first questions we ask them about is their unfair competitive advantage. All organizations and individuals have their own superpowers and unique talents that we encourage them to understand, articulate, and highlight out in the marketplace. I have come to believe that if we all really understood and better communicated what it is we do better than anyone else – our own special, sometimes hidden superpowers – it will benefit all of us as individuals and institutions, and help others better understand us too.
What is your unfair competitive advantage, and how are you going to communicate it to the world? We would love to hear more- email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.