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The following article
was written by Coleman Patterson and
appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.
If everyone was
, February 24, 2008, 2D.
(an expanded version of this article to appear in The Baptist
I have heard it
said that good preachers can find sermons in almost anything they encounter. I think that it is also possible to find lessons
in management and leadership in many things as well.
The Incredibles, a movie made for kids and adults,
provides one such example. The movie tells
the story of a family of superheroes who become locked into battle with a nemesis who
makes himself powerful by inventing machines and weapons.
Buddy, the nemesis, reveals that his ultimate plan is to sell his inventions
so that everyone can be superheroes. And
when everyones super, Buddy cautions, no one will be.
I recently received
a recruiting brochure in the mail from a nearby, peer university. The brochure showed pictures of attractive and
happy-looking college students smiling and having fun at scenic campus locations and
events. It had images of professors and
students interacting in classroom settings, pictures from athletic events, and images of
students engaging in worship and Bible study. The
text described the institution as being warm, caring, and academically challenging. Prospective students were encouraged to choose
this school because of its small class sizes, interaction with caring and committed
faculty members who take personal interest in their students, relevant and interesting
academic programs, and its faith-based education. The
brochure touted the things that made the institution super.
The institution did
not come across as super or extraordinary. I
felt like I had seen the brochure countless times before from a countless number of
schoolsprospective students who receive the brochures probably feel the same way. The brochure described important, relevant, and
interesting characteristics of the institution, but they were not super. The school came across as very common. In fact, there are three competitors in Abilene
that could claim those same distinguishing characteristics.
To be super,
institutions and their offerings have to be different from othersthey need to be
unique. The concept of choosing one or more
important consumer dimensions to compete with others for consumers is known as the unique
selling proposition (USP). The USP is the
thing or angle that firms use to differentiate themselves from their
competitors in the minds of consumers. The
things that make the institution unique must be things that consumers find relevant and
desirable. A good USP is one that competitors
cannot imitate or replicate and when exploited over the long run can create monopoly-like
advantages for organizations and become forms of sustainable competitive advantage.
To attract the
attention and interest of prospective consumers, organizations must develop and offer
unique features, products, services, programs, and experiences that make themselves
different from their competitors. To be
unique, organizations, their offerings, and the messages that they broadcast into the
marketplace must be unlike others. Simply
stating important and worthwhile characteristics does not make an institution unique in
the minds of consumers, especially when their competitors tout the same things. Having the same super characteristics as everyone
else makes no one super. Might there be a
sermon in that?
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