How do you make money when there's too much choice? Certainly not by fighting a war on price. Time for a fourth look at the backdrop to the New World of Work.

How to cope in a world of abundance.

The context

We live in interesting times, in this New World of Work. There are so many characteristics of this world which are well articulated, such as the ever-accelerating speed of change. But one which is critical for business people — and which is less frequently expressed — is abundance, or the wealth of choice which is now available to everyone. From a competitive point of view this generally means having too much choice.

Abundance

Too much choice — that's what I mean by this term. But isn't choice good? Well, when you are the consumer: yes. But as employer or employee? Not necessarily, unfortunately. Once upon a time, in the Old World of Work, you had to beg for a current account. There were only a few places you could go in a city like London for a real Italian espresso, certain fruits were only available in certain seasons, rare books were hard to track down, and even for women — and certainly for men — many clothes were timeless whether they were jeans or evening wear.

Now, in the New World of Work, you can get a current account anywhere and decent coffee is available on every street corner. What fruit do you want, and when do you want it? Locating the rare book is easy — only the actual buying of it is difficult — and in fashion (whether that's jeans or a car) models quickly become out of date.

Is this good or is it bad? Well, it's not for any of us to say; it just is. But lots of choice means lots of competition and lots of competition means price pressure and the consequent slippery slope. So, don't just notice it: act — it's what you are doing your MBA for. Read on…

Implications for organisations

How do you manage to build a viable business in a world of abundance? The key message is be distinct or be extinct. There are three simple rules. Firstly, build uniqueness into your product and/or solution. This can be 'hard' uniqueness such as a distinct feature, or it can be 'soft' uniqueness, such as excellent services. Next, never sell on price, sell on value. There is no 'definite, perfect acceptable' price. Convince your customers of the value. Finally, keep getting better. Take everything you do in the organisation and ask yourself how you can do it better. For instance:

How do you make money when there's too much choice? Certainly not by fighting a war on price. Time for a fourth look at the backdrop to the New World of Work. How can the reception area be better? Fresh flowers.

How do you make money when there's too much choice? Certainly not by fighting a war on price. Time for a fourth look at the backdrop to the New World of Work. How can our hot line be better? Open at 7.45 a.m. rather than 8.00 a.m.

How do you make money when there's too much choice? Certainly not by fighting a war on price. Time for a fourth look at the backdrop to the New World of Work. How can our marketing be better? Ban paper marketing as wasteful; change to online or conversational (on the phone).

How do you make money when there's too much choice? Certainly not by fighting a war on price. Time for a fourth look at the backdrop to the New World of Work. How can our HR be better? Give people a choice of courses to attend rather than 'mandated' ones.

Educate everyone in the organisation that any success which comes simply as a result of difference is likely to be short lived. Difference must be regularly recreated; feature X, opening hours Y, free coffee Z — none of these will last long because smart competitors will copy you. That's the key. Don't copy: stay ahead.

Implications for you

How do you stay employable in an abundant world? How do you ensure that your clients will still need you in a world of shuffling rivals? Here are three rules again.

How do you make money when there's too much choice? Certainly not by fighting a war on price. Time for a fourth look at the backdrop to the New World of Work. Build your personal brand: that's what people say about you when you are not present. Think what they probably say now, think what you would like them to say, and close the gap.

How do you make money when there's too much choice? Certainly not by fighting a war on price. Time for a fourth look at the backdrop to the New World of Work. Keep getting better; take everything you do and be just that little bit better at it. For example, be at your desk and ready for work at 9.00 a.m. rather than taking your coat off and complaining about the buses being late at 9.07 a.m.; contribute to meetings rather than sitting at the back with your arms folded and help customers rather than saying 'you need another department'.

How do you make money when there's too much choice? Certainly not by fighting a war on price. Time for a fourth look at the backdrop to the New World of Work. Finally, do not worry about what other people think; they are frightened by your new-found enthusiasm and desire to be better at what you do. Don't let their cynicism bring you down.

And in a nutshell?

How do you make money when there's too much choice? Certainly not by fighting a war on price. Time for a fourth look at the backdrop to the New World of Work. Don't stagnate: that's effectively going backwards.

How do you make money when there's too much choice? Certainly not by fighting a war on price. Time for a fourth look at the backdrop to the New World of Work. Don't copy: at best you just keep up.

How do you make money when there's too much choice? Certainly not by fighting a war on price. Time for a fourth look at the backdrop to the New World of Work. Jump and get ahead: that's how you survive in a world of abundance.

'Choice. The problem is choice'. Neo, in The Matrix Reloaded

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