Most of my friends, clients, and readers are breathing a sigh of relief: 2010 is over. While thinking about the past year, I pulled together a collection of all the blogs I wrote in 2010. With more than 40,000 words it's practically a book! You can download a copy here. Looking back at the posts that generated the most responses in 2010, I began to get a sense of what 2011 might hold in store.
1.The Saints win the Super Bowl: Von Clausewitz, the great Prussian military strategist, introduced us to the concept of "moral force." He believed that armies that wanted to win with great conviction enjoyed a tangible advantage over less-motivated adversaries. This year, the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl not just because of the creativity of their strategy and precision of their quarterback, but because they had the entire nation behind them.
2.Is Google destined to be evil?: Google appeared to break its self-imposed approach of not being evil when it began advocating for closed Internet. But the evolution of Google from underdog to an industry leader follows the inevitable pattern of every successful firm. Young companies win by delighting their customers, but as companies grow stronger, things change. They become intrigued by a new set of tools in their tool box. They naturally gravitate toward the three key sources of sustainable advantage.
3.Five Laws of Conflict—Burning Korans Breaks them All: Florida-based pastor Terry Jones had planned to lead his congregation in a Koran burning, celebrating what they call "International Burn a Koran Day." I could never have predicted the passion this debate would ignite from both sides. There is clearly an unresolved, and I believe misdirected, pent-up anger in our national psyche.
4.Can Rosetta Stone Reach the Fourth Level of Advantage?: Do you want to inspire the pack, fluster the pack, or leave the pack? An emerging breed of competitors, many of whom I covered this year, are finding new ways to reach the fourth level of advantage.
5.Three Tips for Building Something Great: In an interview with the founder of "College Hunks Hauling Junk," Nick Friedman shared some of his ten commandments for building a business. One of my favorites—and the one that got the most comments—was to maintain a Zen-like state of detachment, being able to work ON the business rather that IN the business.
6.What's a Duck to Do?: I got a chance to spend over an hour with Daniel P. Amos, the CEO of AFLAC, and hear firsthand how he helped turn a relatively small, regional insurer into a global behemoth. One of the company's key strategies was to "create something out of nothing"—to create an entirely new insurance category in Japan. (Visit http://www.kaihan.net/ to hear my interview with Mr. Amos.)
7.A Torn Public: To Love or Loathe Michael Vick?: As my home-town American football team approaches the Super Bowl, its colorful quarterback has been drawing attention. This blog set off a firestorm of debate around the ethical question of should you forgive someone who has done something bad after the serve their time and apologize.
Beyond these posts, I covered the leaders of a number of what I believe to be "Outthinker" companies including Vistaprint (VPRT),WebMD (WBMD), Blue Nile (NILE), the Wall Street Journal, Inventiv Health (VTIV, now private), Valley Forge Fabrics (the leading decorative fabrics provider to hotels), Eye Buy Direct (the leading online eyeglass retailer), Kumon (the leading after-school tutoring franchise), etc. Next year I'll keep following them and add a few more.
Stepping back on what seemed to most catch my readers' eyes, I would summarize 2010 as a revolution. There is a shift occurring in the nature of business competition. A new field of winners that are breaking commonly accepted norms is emerging. If the post-crisis world is as different as many warn it will be, we can learn from these "outthinkers." I look forward to bringing you more in 2011.