21.11.18 / Posted by jirehconsult

Ask any person who has been through business school and they would be familiar with the term ‘core competency’. For those who are uninitiated, the term refers to a management theory concept that refers to what a company or business is truly good at that gives it an advantage over competitors.

That is of course a watered down version of what it means; the simplest way to describe core competency. To delve a little deeper, as far as my memory of business school serves me, core competencies comprise resources of a business, including the combination of pooled knowledge and technical capacities, that allow it to be competitive in the marketplace.

This management theory originates from a Harvard Business Review article titled “The Core Competence of the Corporation” where authors C.K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel review three conditions a business activity should fulfil to be a core competency. First, the activity must provide superior value or benefits to the consumer. Secondly, a core competency should not be easily replicated or imitated by competitors.  Lastly, it should be rare; it should be something not found in a competitor.

I daresay this concept can even be applied to people as well. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses; nobody is ever truly good at everything. As the saying goes, ‘a jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one’. There will be certain aspects where we excel ahead of others just as sure as there will be aspects in which we lag behind.

And this is where core competency comes into play. Regardless of what it is you do, in whatever field it may be, you have to find what gives you the competitive advantage. Not only would this be useful for you when being evaluated for a job or role or position, it also allows for smoother work when working in teams.

The key composition of a team ideally would be to have people who complement your own abilities and skill set to minimise any redundancy where possible. Overlaps are nigh unavoidable, thus keeping them to a minimum becomes integral. Leveraging people who complement you is beneficial as it may lead to heightened levels of productivity as one can avoid toiling at work they just do not grasp as easily or as well as another. This leaves them more time and energy to focus on doing what they do best, well.

For instance, one member may be a whiz with words and copywriting, while another is better at design and piecing together decks. Working in tandem, they would create a far better finished product than either could have done individually. In the end, it is this package that makes for competitive advantage for the organisation.

This is by no means a call to gravitate to those who only complement you and alienate the rest. Everyone has something to offer, regardless of the weight of their potential contribution. There may come a time where all hands on deck are required to deliver on certain briefs, and in times like those, you wouldn’t want to be the odd person out.

November 2018