Weaknesses, by traditional definition, are attributes of your company that are inferior to your competitors. A common response to identifying weaknesses is to try to fix what’s wrong or improve it. Only one problem. Just because something you’re doing as a company might appear to be “inferior” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a weakness or an “area for improvement”.
We prefer to define a weakness as something that your customers really value that your competitors are doing a better job of satisfying AND is diminishing your potential returns.
When looked at from the external (customers and competitors) to the internal (what you are good at and can make money doing), you understand weaknesses more deeply from a strategic perspective that enables you to make smart decisions about where and how to invest your resources. You simply can’t afford to fix or improve everything, nor should you try. It’s more lucrative to pour yourself into what is most highly valued by your customers that you can do better than competitors AND make the greatest return, which happens to be our definition of a strength.
Over the last decade, while every giant electronics brand in the world was turning its camcorder products into portable Hollywood studios, a company named Pure Digital launched a somewhat pedantic version with minimal point-and-shoot options and just “good enough” picture quality. It cost hundreds less; was small, easy to use and customers could record and upload in 10 seconds. Within two years the Flip Ultra was the biggest selling camcorder. The company was subsequently acquired by Cisco for over half a billion dollars.
Pure Digital could have treated an obviously inferior quality product as a weakness. Instead, they looked at what was going on externally and gained insights as to what customers really valued – good enough quality with a simple uploading process. Once they figured out how to offer this simple value proposition, they hit one out of the park with their product. By adjusting your definition of a weakness, you can more effectively determine how to deal with it, and maybe even turn it into a strength.