Absolute advantage: The strategy of learning and unlearning

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Reylito A.H. Elbo

Reylito A.H. Elbo

SOMETIMES we don’t know the difference between what we need and what we want. We want so much money, but God gives us what we truly need and much better – a closely-knit family, a healthy mind and heart, a satisfying career, respect in the community, all while living a modest life.

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So what can you ask for?

Michael Douglas’ fictional character Gordan Gekko in the 1987 movie “Wall Street” has a line that promotes “greed is good.” In the corporate world, managers follow that same mantra, believing that excessive profit leads organizations to efficient markets beneficial to the consumers and the general public. And you think that greed is good? It reminds me of a story of a corporate executive who went to a pizza parlor and ordered a medium-sized pizza. When it was ready, the cook asked him if he wanted it cut into four or six pieces. The man thought a moment, and then said:

“Better make it four pieces. I don’t think I can eat six pieces.”

Mahatma Gandhi said: The “earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.” If you can’t help it, you’ve to take greed to a different level.

Greed took on a new positive form when Apple icon Steve Jobs advised people to “stay hungry, stay foolish.” For trail-blazing innovators like Jobs, being greedy is for the right thing. You must not be satisfied with what you can offer to customers but achieve something monumental in the process, or those things that have not been done before.

And it must be done right away, because waiting is not an option, except when you do it as a family obligation. Impossible though it may sound to some macho men, I would wait for my wife Bonnie to finish her shopping at the supermarket. The average total elapsed time involved in waiting for her is two hours and 43 minutes, of which at least one hour is devoted to comparing prices.

I don’t care. I have Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” in digital format.

Bestselling Japanese author Haruki Murakami says, “ ‘for a while’ is a phrase whose length can’t be measured, at least by the person who’s waiting.” I beg to disagree. As long as you’re doing something worthwhile, then waiting can be a non-issue.

Depending on the quality of your service, you might get more than good grades from your customers. You might even get good money in terms of continued patronage. In the fast food industry, serving customers in 60 seconds is a clear example of its absolute advantage.

In international business, the theory of absolute advantage refers to a country having that unique advantage when it produces a large amount of goods or services for the same amount of resources that other countries are using. In other words, that unique advantage can be said if you can use fewer inputs than what other people and organizations can do for the same outputs.

An absolute advantage is overly rewarding. So why wait until someone tells you that he’s much better than you are? So why wait until the last minute to start elevating the 60-second standard of the fast food industry to 45 seconds or less?

There are many, many exciting strategies I could tell you on how to acquire absolute advantage. One time-tested formula is to read at least ten books a month. Vary the topics. Alternate reading novels with humor, then biography, suspense-thrillers, and then move to politics. After that, proceed with business management, fact or fiction, and so forth and so on. Then unlearn and relearn the key messages. And proceed to do several experiments by watching people around.

You don’t have to go to Starbucks to do that. Jollibee would suffice, if not better. One sure fire way to tell the difference between Starbucks and Jollibee, no matter if you’re not comparing an apple to an orange, is that Jollibee customers have elderly customers selling insurance plans and real estate deals and who know that the best seats in the house are those bordering a corner table near the comfort room.

Meanwhile, outside Jollibee, and down the hall but inside Starbucks, young professionals are smoking Marlboro cigarettes and conversing with an American twang: “Greed is good.” One thing is sure. They’re not referring to those in government.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in HR and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to elbonomics@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random thoughts.

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