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HARD BALL. (cover story)

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    • Abstract:
      The winners in business play hardball, and they don't apologize for it. They single-mindedly pursue competitive advantage and the benefits it offers: a leading market share, great margins, and rapid growth. They pick their shots, seek out competitive encounters, set the pace of innovation, and test the edges of the possible. Softball players, by contrast, may look good--they may report decent earnings and even get favorable coverage in the business press--but they aren't intensely serious about winning. They don't accept that you must sometimes hurt your rivals, and risk being hurt, to get what you want. Instead of running--not scared, but smart--softball players seem almost to be standing around and watching. They don't play to win; they play to play. That approach may reflect the recent focus of management science, which itself has gone soft. Indeed, the discourse around soft issues such as leadership, corporate culture, knowledge management, talent management, and employee empowerment has encouraged the making of softball players. While there are countless ways to play hardball, a handful of classic strategies are effective in generating competitive advantage. Best employed in bursts of ruthless intensity, these strategies are: Devastate rivals' profit sanctuaries, plagiarize with pride, deceive the competition, unleash massive and overwhelming force, and raise competitors' costs. But hardball isn't only about the moves you make. It's also about the attitude you bring to them. The playbook won't do you any good if you feel squeamish about using it. Do you have what it takes to play hardball? [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
    • Abstract:
      Copyright 2004 Harvard Business Publishing. All Rights Reserved. Additional restrictions may apply including the use of this content as assigned course material. Please consult your institution's librarian about any restrictions that might apply under the license with your institution. For more information and teaching resources from Harvard Business Publishing including Harvard Business School Cases, eLearning products, and business simulations please visit hbsp.harvard.edu. (Copyright applies to all Abstracts.)