...benchmarking against the universe actually encourages us to be mediocre, to be average, to just do what everyone else is doing. The folks who invented the Mini (or the Hummer, for that matter) didn’t benchmark their way to the edges. Comparing themselves to other cars would never have created these fashionable exceptions. What really works is not having everything being up to spec… what works is everything being good enough, and one or two elements of a product or service being AMAZING.
My ex-colleague Stuart had a great antipathy towards benchmarking and like Seth Godin noted that you can only get slightly better at what the others you benchmark against are doing. You are not being different, amazing, defining a unique selling point (to use the jargon).
I agree with the sentiment. Somethings you do need to be good at (good enough as Seth says) and perhaps you will want to benchmark these or at least give yourself ways to see whether what you are doing is working well enough.Other things you have to try and innovate and be creative. I don't think you can measure creativity or benchmark it. I could create 200 new things this week but none would be amazing. Next week I could do 6 and 3 would be stunning (obviously not in reality).
ntl look to improve, and have looked to improve over a long period. Sometimes they manage it - like now improvements are happening (I dare say not fast enough for some customers) however benchmarking data is a relatively recent phenomenon here. Bizarre? Yes, well 'no comment'.
I suppose where I am trying to get to is that we do have elements of the amazing product, and perhaps we are good enough at some things (but by no means all) however we lack the culture to really be amazing and to make our customers happy most of the time. I think that truely comes from leadership and having never worked anywhere that has it I can't comment further - its just a feeling I have.
Seth suggests you need 'guts' but I also think you need passion rather than obsession which is the difference between being top of the benchmark or being remarkable. If you have the passion you'll find a way.