the hidden in plain sight competitive advantage

Business is conducted through humans, by humans, for humans. Humans invent, create, produce, market, sell goods and services to other humans. Business success is determined by how well the humans at the company meet the needs of the humans who are buying compared to the other options available.

Oversimplified, but reasonable enough. If I need a new mountain bike, the bicycle company that best meets my needs for price vs quality vs value vs features vs warranty vs availability vs etc is the one that I will give money to. If there are enough people with the same needs then that business will do better than their competition. Simple enough, no?

Well, no.

How the humans who are your (internal or external) customers FEEL about your products and services is much, much more important than what they THINK. [This is the single most significant line I have written in this blog ever. Period. Think about it. Internalize it. Apply it to your job.]

Us humans are emotional, illogical, and irrational. We are pleasure seeking pain avoiders. We almost always act in what we believe is our best interest or will at least what will make us happy in the moment. We almost always act in ways that support our self-identity and often put who we think we are ahead of our long-term best interests. Us humans are individualistic and driven by group dynamics. We want to stand out by fitting in and be just as unique as everyone else. Status matters – a lot – and we put considerable effort into creating and maintaining our position in our world. We cling to ritual and tradition more than progress and reason. We fear change yet get bored easily and constantly seek new and different. In short, we are a gloriously gooey, sloppy, contradictory, confusing, paradox.

Business gets done through, by, and for humans. If that’s true, then our skills for understanding the driving psychology of ourselves and others, communicating our needs and concerns while understanding and empathizing with those of  others, and leading and influencing  others (and ourselves) are paramount to long-term success. Those ill named “soft” skills are foundational to business success, individual success, and human success, yet are some of the least appreciated, studied, or taught skills.

If we were consistently rational and logical, understanding ourselves and others would be PRIORITY #1 for every individual, community, organization, and business. It’s not. There is a competitive advantage to be found wherever there is a gap between what’s available and what’s needed.

It’s worth repeating: How the humans who are your (internal or external) customers FEEL about your products and services is much, much more important than what they THINK.

Use that information to your advantage.


status quo?

“If you don’t change your beliefs, your life will be like this forever. Is that good news?” – Robert Anthony


Belief fuels action and habit, which creates a hard to break cycle. The more we do something, the more it becomes habit and the more of a habit it is, the more we do it. This penetrates every aspect of our lives.

Mr. Anthony refers to beliefs and it’s easy to think he is only talking about belief with a capital ‘B’: God, morality, religion, etc. That makes the power of his comment easy to miss. We have beliefs about every aspect of our lives. We choose our actions based on what we think will make us happy and successful (or at least happier or more successful than other choices), if only in the short run.

How often do we hear (or say), “I have to do it this way” or “Everyone does it like this” or “That’s just the right way to do it”? How often do we overjustify our actions without bothering to consider other possibilities (remember: we don’t want the best way, we want our way to be best)? How often do we use our beliefs to justify playing the victim?

We can try to make changes, but if we don’t change our beliefs, the changes will never stick. We’ll never, ever lose weight if we think we’re doomed to be fat. We’ll never get rich if we believe we were born to a loser’s life. We’ll never make good leadership decisions fueled by inaccurate beliefs. Too many times it’s been said:

  • “I can’t fire them, they are over 40.”
  • “I have no control over my employees’ motivation because I can’t give raises.”
  • “HR won’t let me fire them.”
  • “They’re doing a poor job, but I can’t fire them because I can’t have that position empty.”
  • “I spoke with them about that once, but it didn’t change so I’ve just learned to live with it.”
  • “I’m not a pleaser, I just don’t like people to be mad at me, but that’s ok, because no one does.”

Change the belief, change the action, change the result. Keep the belief, take the same action, get the same result. Your call.