Business is no stranger to commoditisation and although companies continue to innovate, develop and protect intellectual property its without question an uphill journey. With the proliferation of companies offering the same products across multiple platforms the customer see’s less and less differentiation.
The value-adding strategy of adding services is a path becoming increasingly well trod, its becoming a strategy more commonplace so no longer offering the differentiation it once did. This leaves the question – What can we do to stand apart, to be truly different in a crowded market place?
Evolution of Products rather than Revolution of Products; Markets tend to favour iterative and frequent improvements (think iPhone 8 – iPhone X, or Galaxy S9 – Galaxy S10 as examples) thanks largely to difficulties in market access and regulatory approvals processes.
The increasing use of Acquisition for Growth; mergers and acquisitions are happening more and more frequently, pick up any trade press to see this for yourself. This reaching out for underlying cost reductions through the ‘blending’ of companies has in effected stymied differentiation of products and services. Competing companies do still exist, its just that they are way larger, way more risk averse and so offer fairly well the same offerings, just in a different wrapper.
The move to Broad-Based Branding; The generic ‘sameness’ of the brand is everywhere we care to look (think Virgin – airlines, trains, money, bank, broad-band, holidays & galactic). The stretching of the brand qualities to cover many different business offerings is a case of remaining broadly speaking safe in brand terms.
The result of these trends is that customers are increasingly less engaged with the brand, the product or the service offerings, its just not possible for them to connect deeply with a brand so thinly spread.
The answer appears therefore to lie not in the brand and how this might be reinterpreted to speak more clearly of the value it offers, the answer lies in the intentionally created culture and how this influences the brand. The answer is to intentionally create a culture you can live and leverage it to best effect.
the intentional culture
Culture is what drives the organisation, its values, behaviors and beliefs, these are the things that define the people that make-up the organisation. The simple truth is that the culture will develop naturally over time and you may in fact be happy with what develops. Or you can decide what culture you’d like, you can have an intentionally created culture, one which displays the values, behaviors and beliefs you wish it to.
At the heart of every organisation is a narrative, the unwritten story of the organisation and its normally centered around how the organisation seeks to make the world a better place through its products and services. Through the process of encouraging behaviors the organisation leadership can intentionally shape the culture . Its worth looking at how start-ups and small companies go about this process, they do it naturally and often because the leadership is invested (normally financially as well as emotionally) in the organisation.
As organisations grow they find that values, behaviors and beliefs are brought into the organisation from new-hires. The new people exert influence over the organisational culture, potentially diluting or even changing the culture. They don’t have the same shared narrative, they have their own putting the organisational culture at risk.
Its a critical part of a leaders activities therefore to nurture the culture they desire for the organisation, they have to take responsibility for the culture, for nurturing it and maintaining it. Its the leaders job to keep the culture on-track and support it for the long-term.
If an organisation is to achieve this they may well realise what the likes of Google and Amazon and Tesla have before them, that culture is the true differentiation factor.
Research supports this view; Drs. Kotter & Heskett in 1992 found that companies that gave priority to organisational culture over an 11 year period experienced 756% growth in net income as compared to 1% net income growth in those that didn’t based on a sample group of 200 companies.
The reality is probably that the marching homogenisation of products and service offerings is likely to continue. The silver lining is that if you are ‘brave’ enough to intentionally nurture, develop and maintain your organisational culture you can stand to make a big win. Not only will you reap the benefits of an intentionally created culture but you’ll significantly stand out from the others who have yet to (and may never will) follow.
Want to learn more about how ISOSyst can help you to define your objectives in relation to intentional culture then reach out to email@example.com with your request.
Philip Dawson MBA – 2019-Nov-22