Sharing Our Competitive Advantage

I attended a meeting for an educational institution the other day. One of the items on our agenda was to discuss our competitive advantage as a school compared to other educational institutions. There was a variety of opinion initially on how transparent we should be about publishing what we believed to be our ‘secret sauce.’ Should we openly share those qualities and programs that make our approach to education more uniquely positioned to be successful than similar schools. The dialogue was collegial and then the Headmaster of the school stated that he would lean towards letting it all out in the public’s view. Why not? We are in the field of education and enhancing the learning process is a core priority. Why not share with our students, parents, community, and even competitors? When completed we will publish our curriculum map and put details behind our course work. If another institution wishes to adopt the exact curriculum map then there will be no security breach.

In reflection, I realized that we are always sharing our competitive advantage on a constant basis. Out customers and fans have an on-going opportunity to evaluate our organizations in action. Word will get around. Think about the airline industry. There are very few differences between the carriers. We all have our favorite (or perhaps it is easier to think of our least favorite). The options are very similar across the board. So far the biggest difference is that the non-legacy carriers have been able to build platforms and business models that allowed for more uniformity (same type of aircraft, fewer fare classes, fewer unions). Our best customers walk around with a megaphone on as Seth Godin says in his book Small is the New Big. They shout about our competitive advantage to everyone who will listen. So perhaps taking a lead from educational institution- being transparent is the new math.

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