The Slight Edge of Organizations

Monday, April 18 2016

ContinualImprovementRecently, while cruising the aisles of a national book chain, I was frozen in place for a very long period, looking at the hundreds of books from gurus with ‘buy me’ titles akin to National Enquirer headlines. I was increasingly disappointed as I struggled to find a ‎book that had substance beyond its shelf appeal.

In fairness, I didn’t read them all, so maybe some of their claims are true, but call me a skeptic.

I was struck by the number of books that focused on the need for innovation. It was a common theme in the aisles; and yet, we know that only rarely will a company invent a game-changing product, process, or technology. Virtually none will single-handedly change customers’ lives or their industry in any significant way. It has been suggested that companies that focus on incremental improvements are more successful, over time, than those that are innovation-centric.

We call this slight edge thinking.

The premise behind slight edge thinking is that you can realize substantial impacts on overall performance through the compound impact of incremental enhancements in each step of a process. In the case of market strategy, this assumes you have a relevant value proposition (see Jaynie L. Smith’s book, Relevant Selling or this infographic from Graham Robertson).

Probably the best motivation is to look at the impact of slight edge thinking applied to a company’s sales funnel, the premise being that even a 5% increase in each step of a typical sales process will have a compound impact on the overall results. A series of 5% incremental improvements can result in a 40% increase in sales revenues!

It is impressive, but the same potential is there for every aspect of business, and your people are the catalysts to make that happen. Align them to a “small things matter mindset” and as leaders take the time to listen to the ideas for small changes. They can add up to big results!