Be First, Be Best, Be Nowhere

Accountability Transformation


Key Point: The title of this blog is one of the key messages from a “hot off the press” IBM global research project, where they interviewed 5,247 C-Suite executives  from 21 industries representing 71 countries. In summary, this extensive research identified three key initiatives to ready one’s company for the next level of competition:

  1. Prepare for digital invaders.
  2. Create a panoramic perspective.
  3. Be First, Be Best, or Be Nowhere.

So if this is what the C-Suite needs to be ready for, what are the implications for you and me?

In spite of taxi protests and some regulatory controversy, the fact is that Uber (founded in 2009) has more of a market cap than the top worldwide rental cars combined and they don’t own one car. They are an app! Airbnb has a market cap more than the entire value of the Hyatt Hotel chain, and they do not own any properties. These companies are digital invaders that seemed to come out of “nowhere.” They were not traditional competitors trying to compete by improving current products and services. They changed the whole darn business models for “getting rides” and “staying away from home.” Subsequently, our jobs are also subject to digital invasion. How will the digital invasion impact your role? As an example, the idea that financial advisors being anything but face to face personal advisors is being challenged. So called “robo-advisors” are becoming a reality, and based on big data algorithms and cognitive computing, some believe they might give investors better results than traditional financial advisors?

A panoramic perspective involves the top five percent performing organizations (IBM defines these companies as “torchbearers”) applying a keen acumen for looking sideways as well as outwards. The IBM research states that torchbearers are better able to discern future trends because they adopt an “eco centric, rather than ego centric perspective.” This panoramic principle applies to you and me. If we want to be at the top of our game, we have to have an owl-like perspective: our head on a swivel. This is a matter of knowing where to self-invest, in addition to survival. A little paranoia is healthy.

Being first is sometimes considered too risky in business. Adapting as a fast follower is often preferred. And becoming the best is usually only aspirational. But not for torchbearers. Their view is: “Be first and one of the best, or be nowhere.” Invade the invaders! Translating this to you and me involves our mindset of thinking BIG… Being BIG. What happens when we personalize the idea of being first, being the best or being nowhere?

Character Moves:

  1. Think about how digital technology might invade our role/job/expertise and do something about it!
  1. Be a scout… Send yourself out on trend missions regarding your current expertise and let the “trends be your friend.”
  1. Be first and best, or nowhere. Be humble yet be very confident at committing to being the first and best. This mindset makes us more indispensable. Maybe even a personal “torchbearer.”

Torchbearers in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: Ideas like Uber, Snapchat, Airbnb, and other game changers are not impossible to conceptualize, especially when it seems Millennials spend time thinking about how to trendset and “invade the invaders” on a regular basis. In fact, “Be first, be best, or be nowhere” might be some of the most common advice Millennials give other Millennials, but rarely follow through with themselves. It’s often too scary, too expensive, too risky, too “career ending”, too (insert 1,000,000 other reasons). But, it’s up to us to get over the hurdles and deliver solutions, because “Be first, be best, be… Nahh, I’ll do it later” is just the same as being nowhere.

– Garrett Rubis

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis.