Cultivate a co-operative rather than competitive advantage

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4th Jul 2012
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In a period of market consolidation it's time to focus on your customers, not your competitors. Janet Garcia tells us more.

No observer could have failed to notice the scale of consolidation underway in the training and elearning industry during 2011. We saw Lumesse acquire Edvantage and Taleo take over learn.com. SuccessFactors acquired Plateau Systems, before subsequently being gobbled up themselves by SAP. Most recently Skillsoft merged with Element K, eliminating its main competitor. All this means that content, platforms and learning technologies are being redistributed everywhere.
Widespread market consolidation is actually creating more instability and a more uncertain environment for providers of elearning and technology-based learning services. A company which is a partner one day might be a competitor the next.
And as content, platforms and technologies rapidly switch hands, we can no longer expect the same level of loyalty from our customers. In fact, from a client perspective the days of choosing one provider over another are numbered. Instead we'll see more customers seeking a blend of different providers that best serves their needs.
"Thinking of the customer as a curator of content, we should be focusing on cultivating the ability to co-operate as a competitive advantage in itself."
Coping with this new environment in the marketplace calls for a change both in attitude and in the business model for providers who want to survive and thrive. Rather than remaining guarded against our competitors it's time to open a dialogue with them and start working together. This requires both a focus on playing to individual strengths and a value shift in the way we do business.

Thinking of the customer as a curator of content, we should be focusing on cultivating the ability to co-operate as a competitive advantage in itself. There are three core strengths that lead to a co-operative advantage:

  1. Seeking out strategic partnerships to create a diverse offering which includes a consistent, high quality content library, without the exorbitant development costs associated with having to create everything from scratch.
  2. Developing platforms which offer frictionless (or as close as possible) integration between these different learning technologies and building ease-of-integration into the content itself.
  3. The flexibility and agility to establish new partnerships with other players. If organisations share a common set of values this can be done in an honest and open way, allowing you to both compete and cooperate in the market to the benefit of customers.
At MindLeaders we aim to bring together these core strengths and in recent times have enjoyed a co-operative advantage as a result. We've integrated our content with almost a hundred different platforms so far and are forging new partnerships with specialist industry-leaders that in previous years we would have considered competitors.
For example, in the last month you will have seen the announcement of a new MindLeaders partnership with CrossKnowledge. The company values we have adopted are the basis for open and honest relationships, and our aim is to allow customers to curate a solution which best serves their business needs.
This focus on co-operation will benefit not only our customers, but the industry as a whole. The results of the 2011 Benchmark Survey by Towards Maturity revealed that whilst adoption of learning technologies is growing, doubts over about the effectiveness of elearning in comparison to traditional training methods remain. We have a responsibility to show a real return and business impact to our customers to justify our portion of budget spends.
By working together, we can bring greater value to learners and companies and in so doing grow the overall training  pie, rather than fighting over our individual pieces in a shrinking pot.

Janet Garcia is director, UK and international, of MindLeaders. Janet joined MindLeaders in 2008 following seven years as the Senior VP of Sales for consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. During her tenure there, she doubled revenue and managed a sales team of 100 people across EMEA. Janet graduated with a law degree from Exeter University in 1993

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