The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success

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John Wiley & Sons, Apr 7, 2014 - Business & Economics - 251 pages
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High performance has always required shrewd strategy and superbexecution. These two factors remain critical, especially giventoday’s unprecedented business climate. But RichKarlgaard—Forbes publisher, entrepreneur, investor,and board director—takes a surprising turn and argues thatthere is now a third element that’s required for competitiveadvantage. It fosters innovation, it accelerates strategy andexecution, and it cannot be copied or bought. It is found in aperhaps surprising place—your company’s values.

Karlgaard examined a variety of enduring companies and foundthat they have one thing in common: all have leveraged theirdeepest values alongside strategy and execution, allowing them tofuel growth as well as weather hard times. Karlgaard shares thesestories and identifies the five key variables that make up everyorganization’s “soft edge”:

Trust: Northwestern Mutual has built a $25 billionrevenue juggernaut on trust, the foundation of lasting success.Learn how to create an environment that engenders trust and propelshigh performance.

Smarts: In most technical fields, your formal educationquickly becomes out of date. How do you keep up? Learn how the MayoClinic, Stanford University women’s basketball team, andothers stay on top by relentlessly pursuing an advantage throughsmarts.

Teamwork: Since collaboration and innovation are a mustin the global economy, effective teamwork is vital. Learn howglobal giant FedEx stays focused and how nimble Nest Labs relies onlean teams with cognitive diversity.

Taste: Clever product design and integration are proxiesfor intelligence because they make customers feel smart. But tastegoes further into deep emotional engagement. Specialized Bicyclescalls it “the elusive sweet spot between data truth and humantruth.” How can you consistently make products or servicesthat trigger these emotional touch points?

Story: Companies that achieve lasting success have anenduring and emotionally appealing story. What’s yourcompany’s story? How do you tell it your way whencustomers, fans, and critics insist on telling your story theirway? Gain the ability to create a powerful narrative in a worldwhere outsiders often exercise the louder voice.

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About the author (2014)

Rich Karlgaard is the publisher of Forbes magazine and author of its ?Innovation Rules? column. He has been a longtime panelist on cable TV's most popular business show, as well as a successful entrepreneur; Karlgaard co-founded Upside magazine,, and Silicon Valley's premier business forum, the 7,500-member Churchill Club. He is a past regional winner of Ernst & Young's ?Entrepreneur of the Year? award. Karlgaard, a Stanford graduate, resides in Silicon Valley. For more information, please visit

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