Competitive Advantage in the Age of Experience


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Industry professionals are justifiably focused on operations. The demands of hyper-competitive markets in a highly regulated industries mean that the productivity frontier advances relentlessly. Effective leaders keep their organizations close to the frontier by implementing as many best practices as practical, knowing that their rivals are busy doing the same! To do otherwise means diminished competitiveness and declining profitability.

Working full tilt since the great recession, industry leaders have invested time, energy and cash in product development, process improvement, technological advances and brand positioning. Meanwhile, the “experience economy,” energized by social networks, has rewired consumer behavior in favor of emotion-based decision-making. Engaged, values-based organizations can respond to this development and capture a decisive, measurable competitive advantage.

The role of emotion in decision-making is well documented. Today, consumers rely on emotionally-connective experiences—and those shared by trusted sources—as the sole measures of an organizations’ merit. More than ever, experiences command our attention, consume our time and tip the scales of trust and loyalty.

The experience economy is a unique stage of economic development. It is characterized by consumers suspicious of branding, who reserve dollars and judgement, waiting for evidence that you are who and what you claim to be. More than ever, consumer experience defines the organization and will determine its potential. The path forward is beginning to take shape.

Mobile technologies and streamlined processes have reduced consumer effort. Brand positioning and marketing communications have shifted toward the personal, emphasizing story-telling, placing businesses on a human continuum. Entire industries have wisely de-emphasized what they do in favor of why they do it. These essential investments track the productivity frontier, but they still do not contribute to sustainable competitive advantage.

Starting with clear and compelling values, experience cultures take the critical next steps to translate their unique attributes into tangible experiences. They educate staff and harness their insights to demonstrate and dramatize organizational values and commitments through every possible interaction and touchpoint. Effective strategy in the experience age requires that all staff members work together to create meaning through action and behavior–not words or aspirations. Certified experience cultures develop laser focus, cohesive teams and they double industry average NPS scores.

The great news is that this form of organizational development does not compete with your investments on the productivity frontier or your compelling brand positioning—it amplifies them by translating them into experiences and indelible memories.

This is how sustainable competitive advantage is built in the age of experience.

Matt Purvis, MBA
Music lover. Bicycle addict. Former CEO of Burley Design Cooperative. Founder of Purvis Management, working to differentiate mission-based organizations from their rivals in hyper-competitive markets.


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