I recently attended an APS Fellows event led by Robert Racine of Wipro entitled The Impact of Digital Technologies on future B2B, which I found incredibly well researched and very informative. Robert said many things that resonated with me, but the most profound was that ‘the only competitive advantage (left) is to learn faster than the competition’, which Robert credits Peter Senge* for. Some people might argue that ‘time to market, superior product specification or service excellence’ are equally powerful differentiators, and they are, but I would argue that by learning faster than the competition, you are able to improve all three. As Robert rightly says, differentiated positions are always temporary or opportunity specific.
In the 40 years since I sold my first software product (which I wrote I might add), I’ve observed that the number one thing (sales) organisations fail to do is to learn from the successful, or otherwise, of sales campaigns. They are, in effect, giving up the opportunity to learn, direct from the horse’s mouth, why they were chosen over the competition, or conversely, why they were not. I acknowledge that sometimes (OK, most times) it’s hard to get to the real reasons, but it can be done, if you ask two simple questions; ‘what did we do well?’ and ‘what could we have done better?’. Start doing this today and learn faster than the competition, especially from wins so others can repeat the magic formula.
*Peter Senge is an American systems scientist who is a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, co-faculty at the New England Complex Systems Institute, and the founder of the Society for Organizational Learning. He is known as the author of the book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (1990, rev. 2006).