When you’re thinking about business strategy, one of the most basic questions you have to confront is whether to play to your strengths or mitigate your weaknesses.
Playing to your strengths at first seems like the logical answer. Do what you’re best at. Push the envelope. Hit your numbers hard.
By contrast, mitigating weaknesses doesn’t seem like it improves very much in the short term. Sure, you’re less bad at the things you’re bad at, but forward-moving progress isn’t always obvious.
Here’s why both matter. Playing to your strengths is great in the short term, but ultimately your strengths have a limit on them. At a certain point you have growth-limiting factors. This is true in so many areas. It’s true in macroeconomics – structural problems can be masked with economic stimulus for a little while, but eventually stimulus stops working. It’s true in marketing. Your marketing will only succeed as well as the weakest link in the chain; poor customer service or a bad product can nullify even the best marketing program. It’s true even in something as simple as running. The weakest part of you – nutrition, equipment, health, form – ultimately inhibits the strongest part of you.
Those weaknesses create a ceiling that limits your strengths. They cap your growth. Only by removing those weaknesses can your strengths continue to flourish.
This is what it might look like, visualized:
Here’s the challenge: many weaknesses take a long time to overcome, longer to overcome than playing to your strengths at that moment. The sooner you can start raising the weakness cap, the sooner your strengths can shine to the greatest extent possible.
Ultimately, the answer comes down to balance and careful measurement. Once you start to see the hints of a plateau in your strong metrics, start shifting focus and resources to remediate your weakest metrics.
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