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Successfully Developing Triple Bottom Line Sustainability: #2

October 27, 2010 3 comments

This is the second of six contiguous Blogs dealing with TBL Sustainability to be published over the next few weeks. All these Blogs are being co-developed with my colleague and TLA Associate Tia Carr Williams. In this second Blog, differences between Sustainable Advantage (SA) and Sustainable Competitive Advantage (SCA) are explored, and the relevance and promotion of innovation are reviewed.

“It is not the strongest of species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most adaptable to change.” – The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin

How successful you become at acquiring and retaining a leading position in your niche marketplace depends critically on how you position your business relative to other businesses. Having significant differentiation continuously proposed from an engaged workforce can provide a formidable distinctive resource for promoting and maintaining marketplace uniqueness. Sustainable Advantage (SA) advocates an engaged workforce as a necessary component for continuous improvement, and this employee-centric culture becomes as much your foundational differentiation as the products or services you provide.

Organizational culture is defined as the collective behavior of a group of people aligned to a corporate vision, demonstrating shared values, habits, common working language, systems and ethos. The ecosystem infrastructure is defined as a common support environment, interwoven with processes, and underscored with the necessary technologies, where the behaviors of different individuals bring to the SA workplace uniqueness in knowledge conditioned by social attitudes. A given corporate culture invariably reflects the moral, social, and behavioral norms of the constituents of that organization, based on their values, attitudes and priorities. When efforts have been made to create a commonality of values that all can aspire to and adopt, it is provable that just the day-to-day work climate can en-culturate a population. For example, without regard for diversity, the bond forged corporately mashes the workforce under a common banner – in this case SA.

SA differs significantly from the familiar Sustainable Competitive Advantage (SCA). Both SA and SCA are based on achieving Right to Market™ (R2M™), where R2M™ involves introducing the right products and/or services at the right time in the right contexts with the right supply chains, and then continually updating, optimizing, and retiring them as necessary; however. SCA pits both employees and organizations against one another in a never ending competitive “survival of the fittest” whereas SA strategy and implementation are based on a win-win collaboration of all parties.

Innovation is vital for bringing about improved performance and efficiency, and is widely acknowledged to be a critical determinant of uniqueness, profitability and overall positioning. SA ensures that innovation is being enabled by the knowledge present across an organization’s marketplace networks, and at every level and from every departmental corner of that organization, propelling and accelerating such innovation. SCA is only qualified as a continuum of innovation to build perpetual differentiation among employees and with, and among, competitors. In contrast, SA promotes open innovation through communication and collaboration in an organization’s marketplace networks, whilst also creating conduits of continuous communication to capture contributions by collaborative employees. This co-opts commitment and buy-in from other organizations as well as every member of staff. The result is a formidable benchmark, and a peer culture of personal accountability, that underscores a daily commitment to improving how things get done. The SA ‘sweet-spot’ is quickly identified, since engaged internal and external networks provide a stream of qualified improvements – they are engaged because they invest in the high value of the ‘relationship capital’ that such broad collaboration rewards.

To grow a culture of innovation it is critical that an organization evolve an SA that instills a long-tail objective. Over what time horizon is your organization really forecasting? Beware! If it isn’t at least the next decade, your vision is short term, and your SA will be unsustainable!!

In the upcoming third Blog of this series further cultural implications of Sustainable Advantage (SA) will be explored.