Culture is the Most Important Differentiator

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September 12, 2018
Thoughts by
Andrew DiMeo

I recently read "A Stake in the Outcome" by Jack Stack, author of "The Great Game of Business" and well known for his success in open-book management. A key takeaway for me after reading "A Stake..." is that culture is the most important differentiator.


Differentiators Aren't Always What We Think of Them to Be

One place I always look to for analogies of life is in baseball. In writing this Tangent, baseball rose to the top because Jack Stack used the sport so much in his book. In little league, shortstop is often considered the top position, and typically goes to the most athletic player on the field. However, by the time your players are going to college or the major leagues; athleticism is a must-have, not a differentiator. The qualities that make a professional shortstop different than his peers are preparation, decision making, leadership, etc.

When playing in the major leagues of industrial design, what can we look to as the analog? Things like empathy, defining needs, killer aesthetics, and design for manufacturing are all must haves.

Our differentiators might sound more like this:

  • Not just empathy... but enlightened (fact based) empathy
  • Not just defining needs... but defining needs specific to business models and industry sectors
  • Not just killer aesthetics... but killer aesthetics with a delightful user experience
  • Not just design for manufacturing (DFM), but DFM at scale

All this said, if culture is the most important differentiator, how does this shake out at Trig? Our company is built on a culture of core values including holding the line, being pragmatic, hungry, and curious tinkerers.

Let's look at each of the core values and how they are the quintessence of what makes Trig different:

  • We Hold the Line leads to insightful critique amongst peers. Everyone feels empowered to challenge decisions at any level, which promotes transparency, respect, and higher quality output.
  • We are Pragmatic is the foundation of DFM at Scale and is the source for squeezing the absolute most out of every single hour spent on innovations.
  • We are Hungry is the value that uncovers new possibilities quickly and efficiently, keeping our team steps ahead of the needs of our clients and our peers in the industry.
  • We are Curious Tinkerers encourages us to be lifelong learners of new skills we can provide our clients in the form of service offerings every single day. We can’t settle for "knowing what we know."

Our core values ensure that we work to understand our clients’ needs on a deeper, more personal level, beyond delivering just what they ask for. Every project has someone’s heart and soul invested in it. Our core values are the bedrock of our culture, our most important differentiator.

Here are a few questions that reading “A Stake in the Outcome” helped me ask with respect to company culture that I’d like to share with you.

  • What are the must-have skill sets for employees and must-have products/services for my company?
  • What are the differentiators?
  • How is my company culture, whether it be mission, vision, and/or core values, driving those differentiators?  Are they accessible, easily understood, and being demonstrated by all members of the team at every level of the organization?
  • What would I change if I could, and how might we implement those changes?

When core values are clearly defined and every employee is on the same page with what those values look like on a day to day scale, company culture will shape itself and everyone benefits.

Andrew DiMeo
Innovation & Design Coach

Dr. Andrew DiMeo is a 20 year seasoned expert in the Biomedical Engineering industry. He is founder and former executive director of the NC Medical Device Organization, which became an NC Biotech Center of Innovation. He also co-founded and became VP of Business Development for the design and manufacturing company EG-Gilero.


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