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When you left your job, what did you leave behind?

What kind of resources and capabilities did you create at your former employer – that others will enjoy long after you left? Do we have a business tool to figure this?

We know that companies with superior resources and capabilities not only produce products and services more efficiently, but deliver better customer benefits than their competitors. But not every resource and every capability, say Dranove and Marciano in Kellogg on Strategy. To translate into competitive advantage, you need resources and capabilities that are scarce, immobile, co-specialized, and scopable.

Personal case to illustrate

As an example, here are the characteristics of the resources and capabilities I created at a former employer.

Scarce: Possibly around 75 people got trained in my two business units between 1996 and 2007. Half a dozen of them were given the capability to use a crude and vendor-oriented precursor of the oil drilling model, which is a strategy-driven method for software discovery and design. The rest of them were trained to use a business process centric approach to designing UI for business applications. So the company's key resources had capabilities not available anywhere else in the world.

Immobile: Some of the other resources and capabilities I created are owned by the company. They are therefore immobile in the sense I could not take them with me when I left the company! For example, the India-first usability lab I set up in 1999 AND the brand I created through innovation, publishing, speaking, conference-hosting, etc.

Co-specialized: Here's what I believe this concept means (let me know if you have a better description). An asset such as human resource is said to be co-specialized with another if the two are "bilaterally dependent." The folks I left behind had become a product of their co-specialization with assets owned by the company such as the unique training they received, the lab, etc.

Scopable: Scopability comprises 3 things that enable the firm to leverage scarce/immobile resources and capabilities for long-term growth and profits: Untapped markets (potential unlocked by the new method I introduced), reproducible production process (the process-centric methods I introduced has been used in scores of global software projects), and capital (company provided).

How good is that checklist?

Like most management tools, the view of resources/capabilities as determinants of competitive advantage has been debated. You will find companies that meet all the criteria, yet struggling financially. You will also find a few companies with mediocre resources and capabilities that keep growing – for a while. However, when combined with the right business model, etc, resources/capabilities with those 4 characteristics are more likely to create long-term competitive advantage for a company (just the way it has happened to my employer). So, go ahead and try this tool to evaluate your impact ... you can figure what you left behind, you can share it with your future employer, and of course you can use it for strategic planning in your current job!

PS: This is the 200th post in the Business & Technology blog!

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