In International Trade we learn the idea of comparative advantage, and how countries benefit from trading with each other if one is better at producing a commodity than another.
Within the first few lectures the professor will emphasize that a country doesn’t need absolute advantage for trade to be beneficial, just comparative advantage.
I think this concept can be applied to team dynamics.
For a while I’ve been insecure about the value I can add to a startup team. I don’t have any direct technical skills, my design skills are mediocre, and the accounting I’ve learned in school doesn’t apply to small businesses. But I don’t think any of us needs to be one of the best or even considered good to provide value to a team. We just need comparative advantage—to be better at a certain thing relative to the rest of the team members.
Recently I’ve been part of a video production startup with my friend Tony. When I first joined, I had no idea how I could help him. He had knowledge of the field, and had already been running his business for months. He told me he wanted to redesign his website. He built his website from scratch with flash, and told me he wanted to switch to Wordpress.
I had built a blog with Wordpress before so I know how to use it. I helped him get hosting, install Wordpress, find a theme, and with my small knowledge of CSS, I customized the theme to his liking. Then I used my small knowledge of copywriting to write all the words and descriptions. I even designed his favicon. None of these things are close to the realm of expertise, but these were things I am slightly better at than Tony, and because of that I’m valuable as a team member.
Today’s world puts too much emphasis on expertise—on having absolute advantage. Many people think that because they don’t have a high technical skill in something that they’re worthless, but they’re not worthless. To these people, I say concentrate on what you can provide and not what you lack.
Two days ago I attended The Santa Barbara Business Expo, my first networking event. Almost all the business blogs and books I’ve read give importance to networking and nothing convinced me more than when I met with my friend Jackie, a real estate agent. I asked her how business was since she had only become a licensed for a few months earlier, and from what I know about real estate, it takes years to get clients. But she told me that she’s busy and business keeps coming. What? How? I asked her what she did for marketing, and how she sought clients.
“Well, it was really easy. I found some real estate agent networking events to go to, and this guy I met told me he was leaving for Shanghai and gave me all his clients”.
My eyes widened. Of course there was some luck to this, and I couldn’t help myself from being jealous. I had spent the past few months, thinking of a business identity and value proposition, targeting my niche, sending out cold emails, meeting with potential middlemen …and Jackie just goes to a networking event and gets handed business.
Very good question by a regular reader of the site who just joined a new company. Some excerpts -
Do you have any sources to recommend regarding the topic of Small-scale Team or Project Management? The background on my request is simply that I work for a large, very disorganized company that grew from a small "mom & pop" to a competitive industry leader in a 'short' time period (10 years or so). The management has not followed the change with the kind of organizational structure that large companies require for effeciency and they abhore 1) change 2) young people initiating change 3) publish initiatives for change with deadlines, and blame the 'young people' when they aren't completed, meanwhile they sabotage all efforts to work on them.
Now, I am no expert on creating the type of organizational structure we need here, but I witness its absence as a massive failure each and every day in my own department and all of the others as well. My team consists of 3 members, 2 analysists and 1 "manager". Our manager is inept. We have had projects for the last 4 years (prior to my hire) outstanding, which if successful could have significant positive impact on finacials, performance, effeciency, communication... I could go on. Our manager belives that such projects are superfuluois and openly harasses us when we work on them (despite the wild success of the first one...which he attributed not to hard work but to "magic"- literally, he said it must have been magic and denied any part we had in achieving the goal).