"Business is War"??? - Beware the Pyrrhic Victory (and Some Other Observations On Business & Recruiting)

In doing my morning cup-of-coffee rounds through some sites and blogs I greatly respect, I came across the following HBR article by by Deepak Malhotra, Gillian Ku, and J. Keith Murnighan:

"When Winning Is Everything"

How many times do we hear the age-old mantra, 'Business is War'?  Think about that - we hear it almost all the time. It's the mindset that dominated American thinking throughout the Industrial Revolution. And if you listen closely, you'll hear this mantra among a large set of Baby Boomers in our society. As a former Marine, I can remember times where the mindset was that you were un-patriotic if you didn't want to destroy a competitor. 9/11 has changed some of these preexisting mentalities (as well as our current foreign policy), however I am always surprised to not see the same enlightenment within our industry . . .

For example, consider the following in the Talent Acquisition world - yes, Exec Recruiters should pose to maintain control, but the notion of 'control' can be a misleading one. There is more than one way to maintain control, perhaps without anyone even noticing that you do, in fact, have control. The notion of control in our industry has been permeated in such a way as to further create an "us vs. them" mentality between TPRs and HR. It's as if control is a struggle in which you either 'win' or 'lose', on or off, black or white, 0 or 1 . . .

But does this mindset serve us in a globalizing, less compartmentalized economy? No, not at all. Cirque du Soleil didn't come into existence because the founder wanted to crush the Movie Theater industry, the Traveling Circus industry, or Broadway musicals . . . the goal was to innovate in a manner that would create a new experience that would emphatically delight customers. They didn't start out by saying, "Let's crush Barnum & Bailey"! Rather, they started out with a clean slate (a blank page, if you will), and today, they rank as #22 on Interbrand's poll of brand names with the highest global impact. Also consider the evolution of the iPod (and now, iPhone). Did Apple start out by wanting to crush RIM? No, they started out by innovating outside the current set of perceived market parameters. That's what I call winning.

On my side of the fence, I run into industry professionals that think you can only exist in one of a few very narrow categories as a vendor: RPO, Contract Recruitment, or Executive Search. In attempting to innovate the model and drive better client results, we often hit a wall because we don't fit into the nice little box (or ladder) of all the other commodity vendors competing solely on price in our industry (Telephone Name Generation companies, ATS companies, Internet Research companies, etc.)

You see, 'winning' is not always about destroying the competition in a very narrow niche . . . not if you want to sustain for the long haul. The age-old "Business is War" mentality helps companies focus and perhaps win in the short term, but a Pyrrhic victory is worth nothing, especially to shareholders and investors. In our new global economy, strategic alliances and true partnerships that aim to deliver amazing value propositions are the road to winning in every sense of the word.

Joshua Letourneau
Mg Dir, Strategic Talent Sourcing Implementation
LG & Assoc Search / Talent Strategy
BLOG: www.lgexec.typepad.com  

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