The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving As Fast As Your Business by Rita Gunther McGrath, published June 2013 by Harvard Business Review Press.
Goodreads Synopsis: Chances are the strategies that worked well for you, even a few years ago, no longer deliver the results you need. Dramatic changes in business have unearthed a major gap between traditional approaches to strategy and the way the real world works now.
In short, strategy is stuck. Most leaders are using frameworks that were designed for a different era of business and based on a single dominant idea – that the purpose of strategy is to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage. Now, Columbia Business School professor and globally recognised strategy expert, Rita Gunther McGrath, argues that it’s time to go beyond the very concept of sustainable competitive advantage. Instead, organisations need to forge a new path to winning: capturing opportunities fast, exploiting them decisively, and moving on even before they are exhausted. She shows how to do this with a new set of practices based on the notion of transient competitive advantage.
The Book Review
No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you, this is an actual book review on Confessions of a Book Geek! Yay! After posting about the books I picked up for the first module of my Masters programme, I officially started the course last week, and it’s fair to say that it’s pretty intense. In a good way. But it’s intense. We’ve already been given our first assignment, which is due the first week of December, and it will require a serious amount of reading, so naturally I’ve gotten stuck right in.
First up is The End of Competitive Advantage by Rita Gunther McGrath, who is described in her Twitter bio as being a strategy and innovation expert and a Top 10 business thinker. Hefty credentials by any standards. In general, I found this to be a really interesting read (which my 8 pages of notes can attest to) with some truly game-changing concepts as well as intriguing insights into the world of super-successful businesses. Just how adaptable these concepts are for regular small and medium-sized companies remains to be seen, but the anecdotes from “outlier” companies definitely provide some food for thought.
While the book does use ten outlier companies as examples, as well as drawing on some more well-known strategy successes and failures, there does seem to be a lack of significant evidence and statistics to back-up the “new” theories presented, and rather than providing any evidence that the more traditional strategy frameworks are obsolete (Porter’s 5 Forces, PEST/SWOT analysis), instead it could be argued that they are just as relevant today, but due to the pace of change in modern business, could do with being reviewed, and taken seriously by business decision makers, much more frequently.
As an introduction-to book, The End of Competitive Advantage hits the spot – it definitely shook up my thinking, got me out of my comfort zone, and provided a strong foundation for my assignment. The book also has more widespread appeal than for academic studies alone, as it is a very accessible read offering some how-to pointers for implementing change.
Interestingly, McGrath includes a section at the back of the book on how the idea of transient advantage and change strategy can be applied to the individual, and a person’s career path, as seamlessly as it can be applied to business. Overall, I found this to be a solid read that has found a permanent home on my bookshelves.
Have you read The End of Competitive Advantage, or any other books by McGrath? Let me know in the comments!