Preston: Brian, in our last exchange you talked about how the internet has enabled us to do things faster, cheaper and more efficiently. We discussed this in the specific application of developing a minimally viable product. I want to focus on the “faster” element whether enabled by the internet or not. Speed, in and of itself, is a competitive advantage.

I’m reminded of a quote from Hunter Thompson: “faster, faster until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.” Although he probably came up with that in a drug induced state, it does contain a business lesson. As the pace of business accelerates, some amount of fear sets in. We can choose to back off and alleviate the fear or we can keep our hand on the throttle and get the endorphins to kick in. What should we do? Clearly, it depends on the circumstances. There are situations where backing off can protect us from disaster but always backing off will prevent us from succeeding.

Speed in responding to market feedback and in developing new products/services are but two examples. Customer service speed (responsiveness) is also a source of competitive advantage. So is the speed of innovation. The Toyota Production System is based on speed not inventory reduction, one piece flow or any of its important elements. A fast manufacturing process 1- eliminates waste, 2- catches and eliminates defects before they accumulate, and 3- gets the product to the customer sooner.

Returning to our initial discussion of creativity and process, speed is integral to both. Creativity in product/service offering design must be rapid or market needs will change. Processes are useless until implemented. Get them in place quickly and continually improve them.

Ultimately to succeed rather than survive, we must seek out those situations where speed separates us from the crowd. The crowd is already in the cloud. How do we find other sources of speed to set ourselves apart?

Brian: Back in the good old days when I spent lots of quality time in print shops, proofing blue lines (kids, you can look it up) and the like, it wasn’t uncommon to see signs that read, “Speed. Quality. Price. Pick two.” And for years, that seemed to be an immutable law. Want it fast and cheap? You’ll sacrifice quality. Fast and good? You’ll pay through the nose.

Not so much today, thanks to technology. Our company can place an order on Monday with an online wholesale printer and get an above average box of business cards or case of brochures by Friday. And that includes shipping! Need a more universal example? Look at Amazon Prime. Pay a modest annual membership fee and you’ll often receive your order next day at no additional charge.  And they haven’t even sent in the drones yet.

Of course, the downside of all this is the expectations game. I can remember when fax machines became available and affordable for small businesses, and how life-changing they became in a short amount of time.  Now they seem almost quaint, like something you’d see next to the typewriters in a technology museum. Meanwhile, when I hit the “Send” button on an email, I find myself growing impatient if it sits in the outbox for more than three seconds.  Could we be training consumers to expect speed as an integral part of every product and service?

I guess I’m wondering where it all ends. Teleportation? Time travel? Conceivably you could deliver an order before it gets placed. Now that would be a competitive advantage. But not for long.

Brian Rouff is a creative business owner. As managing partner of Imagine Communications (www.WeAreImagine.com), a leading Las Vegas based marketing communication firm, he is responsible for business processes. However, Brian is also part of Imagine’s creative team and a published author, so he has a foot in both camps.

Preston Sumner, President of CEO Focus of Nevada (www.ceofocusnv.com), is a curious observer of and participant in business. His curiosity extends to domains such as psychology, sports, physics, and warfare. He finds that these other domains offer models and lessons for business performance. Preston is fascinated by the intersection of knowledge and performance. Together Brian and Preston will explore this tension between creativity and the process of business.