IntroductionThe concept of Core Competencies, as propounded by the two world-class Strategic Management experts, Gary Hamel and the late C.K. Prahalad, had taken the entire business world by storm. For the first time in business history, one concept made the corporate leaders give as much importance to whatever they did inside an organization to whatever they did outside it in terms of understanding the competition or understanding their position with reference to any external framework.
In the simplest of terms, Core Competencies refer to bundles of skills and technologies that offer superior benefits to customers. It is not just one skill. There are several skills, combined with behavioral traits or habits. Some common examples of such core competencies from our every-day lives can easily come and observed in a) Culinary skills of grandmothers b) achievements of sportsmen c) The classic touch of certain film directors d) Passion of artisans and other experts and e) Results of exemplary products and services.
Culinary skills of grandmothersGrandmothers have the greatest knack of getting things right. The grandmothers have a passion for cooking. They look for the best methods and very patiently perfect the art of making the best recipes. It comes out of practice. For instance, in Tamil Nadu, hundreds of grandmothers have perfected the art of making the softest idlis, which is now becoming a global snack. One can find this in Indian restaurants anywhere in the world.
How do they do it? Patience, passion, and perseverance. These "Ps" will largely describe whatever they do. They might have learned the art from their mothers, but they will only do it their way. In certain villages, it is a common sight to see grandmothers patiently doing it the traditional way by grinding it through the manual process with the age-old manual grinding stones and structures. They would not use the mixie. This process does take around thirty minutes and does not involve electricity at all. Yet, their manual labor will produce the perfect idlis right in front of our eyes. It is still called "malli poo" idli (as soft as jasmine flowers).
To this day, hundreds of such grandmothers also use the same manual grinding tools to perfect the art of making the best sambar powders or many other such powders in India. Some of them sell them to local outlets and they are not branded. They would sell only on the basis of word-of-mouth publicity. Core competencies lead to "entry barriers". In the simplest of terms.it refers to any barrier that does not allow any competition to ever come in. Our grandmothers have "entry barriers" as well. Their daughters-in-law would be no match to their core competencies that produce the best of food products. The younger generation would struggle to emulate her. She would still live in a different world, far removed from the mundane rat race that we are accustomed to.
Achievements of sportsmenWhat do Viswanathan Anand, M.SA. Dhoni and Ravichandran Ashwin, among several other high achievers, have in common? Passion. Hard work. Dedication. Creativity. ability to quickly make decisions, and the like. There is no compromise in whatever they do. They are the perfect role models for millions. From their interviews or whatever others talk about them, we can easily understand that they would be streets ahead of others only because they always practice what they preach and get to put in hours of hard work that most others do not do. This is what gives rise to their core competencies. They do offer the best knowledge, entertainment, and passion for their fans. One can often call such fans, "customers". They get the best results in terms of expectations from such high achievers.
The classic touch of certain film directorsSatyajit Ray was a classic craftsman. His movies had class. His films had shown the Indian reality to international audiences. His work was not the ordinary type.
In recent times, master craftsmen have also appeared on the Indian scene in Shankar, Mani Rathnam, and a few others. Their films have a classic touch. They are totally different in terms of their message and leave the audience spellbound. Remember the highly acclaimed "Anjali", that made the entire audiences sit up and take notice. That film by Mani Rathnam touched upon the sensitive subject of how we treat children with physical deformities. That film went on to become a super-duper hit. As was the Kamal Hassan blockbuster, "Nayagan". This movie captured the spirit of the Mumbai mafia and the Dharavi experience. This movie was even nominated for the Oscar award.
Shankar has also made some good entertainers. His "Enthiran" with Rajnikant as the hero, sought to showcase the power of robots. It showed what can happen if robots have intelligence. These directors have created an Indian and even international audience. They are too good. They have successfully erected entry barriers. There are no directors who can compete with them.
Passion of artisans and other expertsIf we see some of the best pots and the pottery trade that goes along with it, we can understand the passion and dedication with which they professionals engage in this trade. Their core competencies are perfected over a long period. One can also see this in the way some farmers do organic farming. Their knowledge is firmly entrenched in their minds. Their core competencies arise from the use of natural fertilizers, that they themselves make. It does take tremendous patience to achieve.
The best interior designers and architects are brands by themselves. They design the best buildings that are rock solid for decades. Creativity runs in their blood. It runs in all their thought processes. Once again, the core competencies are not built in one year, They may several years to be in place. Their results speak for themselves.
Results of exemplary products and servicesSaravana Bhavan is an iconic brand of vegetarian restaurants in Chennai and in several countries as well. Till the founder, Mr. Rajagopal died a few years ago, the restaurant was known for the quality of its sambar. (today, the original taste is gone).
At one stage, Mr. Rajagopal priced the sambar and extra helpings were priced at Rs.10/-. Yet, the customers would happily pay to literally drink the sambar. The restaurant went on to make a big difference. Certain hotels make their name after some celebrity endorses it. For example, the superstar of India, Amitabh Bachchan would always stay only at Taj Coromandel, a five-star hotel in the heart of Chennai city. He is on record that the services of this hotel are too good.
Parker pens go along with the common perception of world-class quality. Similarly, the products that get firmly entrenched in our minds for the best quality, are classic examples of core competencies. In each of these cases, brand building and the strength of the brand are the core competencies. The brand "Amul" is one such. Customers can always expect only the best quality. The rest, as they say, is history.
It should be noted that each of the aforesaid examples of core competencies has some common characteristics. They are all the result of years of hard work. These result from individuals and organizations charged with a passion to make a big difference to the world. Whomsoever is their framework of reference, they would always have some lessons that can be easily learned by anyone. Many cricketers have said on record that the passion for hard work and creativity of M.S. Dhoni has inspired them.
Similarly, many a film director is motivated by the sheer class and creativity of Manirathinam. In as much as this inspiration goes on forever, such core competencies have a spiraling effect on the wider society as well.
ConclusionCertain common examples of core competencies, that we see all around us, have been explained in very simple terms. Every effort has been made to not mix it with the complicated jargon that invariably gets associated with the concept. Hopefully, these examples will induce good thought processes in anyone who reads it. And then such thought processes will produce far better results for all.
Before the advent of formal Management education and degree also, we were 'managing'. Such people had their core competency in not just managing one area or task but in multitasking too. Just a few of those are mentioned in this article.
I have seen many daughters wondering and asking their mothers "Mum, how did you manage us, four children, then? I am not able to manage my one child". That meant they have started accepting the core competency of their mother.
One very good example of a core competency application being formally used for teaching management students is the "Mumbai Dabbawalas". We can see and learn some unique core competency from a newspaper boy also.
Recently the Coimbatore based "Annapoorna-Gourishankar' group of hotels was celebrating their fiftieth year of functioning. It is a case of study on core competency. One thing they highlighted was the consistent quality in all their branches all these years. That helped their brand and became a co-existing name with the city. They have a central kitchen with a consistent formula and quality control supplying their products to all the branches.
As the author has said, there are many such common examples around us. We should have the eyes and ears to learn from them.
Mastering a job and doing the same in perfect order is possible only with dedication, passion and the sincere involvement of the performer. It is not necessary to be acquainted with the inputs provided in the classes of the top management schools. Of course, such teachings in the management schools may sharpen the skills of some aspirants with constant practices. But originality and creativity are the two important aspects that create legends in the field they have chosen. It reflects that with the blend of innovativeness we can make our piece of job extraordinary.
Examples of such splendid performance are numerous such as the functioning of the Langar in the Golden Temple Amritsar indicates the dedication and quality management of the committee. They have the perfected the art of distribution of meals with the mouth-watering tastes because of adherence to certain tips known to the efficient team only.