Do Your Customer’s Needs Fit What You Can Deliver? Every Time?

by Apr 11, 2023Business, Culture, Customers, Diversity, Entrepreneur, Strategy, Talent

Let’s discuss why you need inside-outside capabilities on your management team and rational-emotional talent on your team.

I’ve written before about how leaders have one of two kinds of skill sets: inside and outside.

The idea is that someone with “inside” skills thinks about the organization’s capabilities, while someone with an “outside” mindset dwells on the customer’s needs. The magic happens when you find the intersection of these skills–where an outside need fits the capabilities of what the organization can deliver.

This is when you arrive at something we can call a “Mafia Offer”–which no one can refuse, and you can deliver on it – every time.

The combination of these skills forms the core of some of the world’s great business partnerships, like Pitney Bowes and Hewlett and Packard. In each case, two leaders brought their unique skills to the table, strengthening the partnership.

Thanks to interesting research published in a 2018 edition of the European Business Review from Tampere University in Finland, we can analyze inside-outside mental models further by introducing two new elements: rational and emotional.

The 4 Archetypes 

When we combine inside-outside thinking with a second axis of rational-emotional thinking, we can identify four different mental model archetypes to help characterize leaders.

1.    Engineer / “inside-rational”

This is someone who thinks deeply about creating a value proposition for the business based on the company’s resources. They see what the company is best at. It’s very rational, and it’s based on facts. But it is also potentially flawed since it doesn’t rely on any outside information from the customer. This is how you might launch a great product that nobody wants, like the Edsel.

2.    Community Builder / “inside-emotional”

These leaders believe that organizational culture is the bedrock of the company’s value proposition. They believe that the employees will serve their customers well if they create a unique culture and hire the right people who connect and engage with that culture. An example of this leadership model is the late Tony Hsieh, who built the shoe company Zappos. Hsieh believed that if he built the right culture, he would build loyal customers.

3.    Visionary / “outside-rational”

A visionary leader relies on market intelligence to determine the basis for a value proposition. This person has a knack for identifying customer behaviors and needs–understanding their “pain points”–and using data to support their position. The catch with this type of leader is that they might completely ignore whether their organization can meet that customer demand.

4.    Artist / “outside-emotional”

An artist is a leader who has the gift of thinking of each customer as an individual and how they can build a relationship with them to solve their problems. These leaders thrive on customer intimacy, and they are capable of generating intense loyalty among them. However, they, too, can overlook whether their organization can deliver on the customer needs they have identified.

Diversity Wins

Regarding you and your leadership team, what skills and mental models do you bring?

Each of these archetypes brings value to the business. But the real power comes from the diversity of thought and bringing different perspectives to the question of solving for your organization’s unique value proposition.

If you have a team that’s only composed of artists, for example, you might build some wonderful relationships with customers–but only for a short time because you can’t deliver them what they want. Similarly, a team of engineers might build amazing products–but the market quickly ignores them.

Of course, because these archetypes represent different personalities, conflict between them can result. But, if that can be done positively and constructively, new ideas can be harnessed from those debates, and true breakthroughs can result.

So, when you look at your leadership team, think about how you might be able to build a diversified team that brings each of these perspectives into play in productive and collaborative ways. If you can do that, your organization will thrive as a result.