My A-Ha Moment About Creating Imbalance

10X-ing strengths is all that matters

As a consultant in the early part of my career, I had an “A-ha” moment around 2 years in. It was at that point where I, like many consultants before and after me, understood how a business actually works. And how to quickly identify what ails its growth and success, and how to deal with it.

To put in terms no one understands: “Strategy”. I’ve used that skill many times since then. (Overused that single skillset, in fact)

Coming to the now: I’ve worked in the same industry, with (nearly) the same set of clients, and the same set of partners since 2011. 5.5 years in mobile ad:tech, and I finally had an a-ha moment about how the world of product startups works.

It’s about Creating Imbalance. I’ll Explain.

I noticed that most startups that succeeded in rapidly scaling their business had one ingredient: That one thing they were phenomenally good at, head and shoulders better than everyone else. And they continued racing ahead in that specific area, faster than competitors, despite already being ahead.

The tenet here is: Companies that scaled rapidly have tended for focus, and double down on their relative strengths while making a “just enough” effort to cover for weaknesses.

Ultimately, doubling down on strengths can get you places 10x (or even 100x) faster than bridging your weaknesses can.

Jason Cohen, a smart bear, and a man much smarter than me, articulates this amazingly well in his blog post.
To borrow a few charts from his post, in a situation of relative strengths vs. weaknesses against competitors that looks like this:

…it’s far more valuable to focus further on developing “A”, than bridging “F”. To illustrate:

This is incredible. Obvious in hindsight, and totally true.

Companies (like products or people) are most well known for their strengths, not weaknesses. That’s what drives their businesses, that’s what drives their growth, and that’s usually where they continue learning faster and getting better. I do think balancing capabilities to look just like everyone else in the market is OK.

But Creating Imbalance by focusing and doubling down on their strengths, on the other hand, is what gives startups that 10X bump.

Originally published at