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Losing and Learning from the Best: CK Prahalad

The world's top business thinker, CK Prahalad passed away in April.  It's almost impossible to comprehend the impact he has made to business thinking.  He is the father of 'core competence.'  Yes, he coined the term.  He also coined 'strategic intent,' 'white space' and 'the bottom of the pyramid.'  He twice ranked as the world's #1 business thinker. 

When he was a keynote speaker, he completely wowed crowds, when he wrote, everyone listened and he was even more impressive in private settings - around friends and family.  I was honored to know him as a boss, mentor and friend.  He had the capability to remember personal moments between hundreds if not thousands of people he met.  CK was way beyond the real deal.  I watched him finger peck his keyboard when writing books. The world took two steps forward because of his work and one step back because of his passing.

Sometimes management pundits advise at such a high and abstract level that it can be difficult to translate their guidance in practical manners. That's not the case with CK.  However, his sage advice came with significant challenge - they take work and effort to implement, but when he pointed them out, they were stunningly obvious.  Here's one of the big things I learned that I apply to marketing:

"Best Practices" can be an oxymoron.  The whole point is that once a practice is deemed a "best practice" it ceases to be a differentiator and slowly becomes a "worst, most disadvantageous practice."  Case in point - direct marketing methods.  Say the best practice is to make very nice HTML e-mails with big pretty images.  After months, every company incorporates this best practice and millions of prospects learn to ignore or filter future communications into a spam folder.  Now, the longer you go on with your "best practice" the less effective your programs are.

Hence, your opportunities lie in "next practices" by experimenting and identifying new opportunities to win by highly contextual differentiation. CK's legacy goes on and on, and will continue so.  Tributes have appeared in every major publication. Here are just a few: