Transient Advantage

A colleague of mine recently sent me a fascinating article entitled, “Transient Advantage,” authored by Rita Gunther and published in June’s Harvard Business Review. If you are a business professional, if defining strategy is part of your job, or if you’ve ever uttered the phrase “competitive advantage,” then I advise you to STOP and go read this article NOW. To make it easy for you, here’s a link: http://hbr.org/2013/06/transient-advantage/ar/1.

The future of your business may depend on it.

As a textbook definition, Transient Advantage is a business strategy that accepts that competitive advantages are often short lived. It focuses on innovation strategies that continually build new advantages. Instead of building one advantage and defending it — a transient strategy focuses on the velocity of competitive advantage.

So, what’s this have to do with you – and Guidewire?

Well, a lot. 

“Companies skilled at exploiting transient advantage put themselves in their customers’ place and consider the outcome they are trying to achieve.”

As a vendor serving the insurance industry, we are always striving to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and to think about the goals and the challenges they face in serving their customers. With the possibility of copycat competitors imitating inventions, the ability to maintain an edge depends upon the ability to invent again, and again, and again, never losing sight of “what is the real problem to resolve?”

When competitive advantage depends on how quickly new ideas can be developed, launched, iterated, and reinvented, it is critical that organizations learn how to innovate fast. How can you balance “speed vs. quality”, you may be asking? When you read this article (and you already have, right?), you might consider whether accepting this speed vs. quality trade-off is still viable. Rapid, high quality innovation must learn to co-exist with rapid, high quality execution. Or a moment of competitive advantage could pass you by.

So, now what? Well this article has me thinking about how we scale new ideas and how we accelerate transfer of knowledge both within Guidewire, and to our external community. Business as usual just won’t do. Further, it has me thinking about how we engage with our customers – and what we can do to ensure the customer experience is cohesive – so that we address the whole problem the customer is trying to solve.