The Soft Edge Book Summary - The Soft Edge Book explained in key points
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The Soft Edge summary

Rich Karlgaard

Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success

3.8 (16 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

The Soft Edge by Rich Karlgaard highlights how combining and balancing the soft skills of empathy, creativity, teamwork, and adaptability with hard-edge technical skills leads to greater success. The book offers insights and stories about successful people and companies who have found the perfect balance and achieved excellence.

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    The Soft Edge
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    Successful companies are founded on three key elements: a strategy, a hard edge and a soft edge.

    What do you think of when you think of successful businesses? Great leaders? Great management? Excellent products?

    The foundation of all great businesses is their strategy. You can think of a business like an equilateral triangle. The strategy is the base: it’s knowing what market you’re in, who your customers are and what your competitors are doing. It supports the other two sides of the triangle.

    The first of those two sides is the hard edge. The hard edge is how the business actually functions. You can’t just have a good strategy – you’ve got to execute it deftly, as well. You can measure the success of the hard edge with raw figures that compute production speed, capital efficiency or logistics, to name a few.

    Harder to measure is the second side, the soft edge. The soft edge is the deeper meaning that a company communicates to its customers and employees. It’s that unquantifiable something that makes a company great.

    Good businesses sit on a strong base and adhere to an effective hard-edge operation model. Great businesses, however, always do more than that, which is what gives them their soft edge.

    So how do you measure your company’s soft edge? Values, innovation, culture, creativity – you can’t put these things on a graph and track whether they correlate with your investment returns. However, there is a model that’ll help you cultivate and keep track of your company’s developing soft edge.

    Imagine that your soft edge is a platform supported by five pillars. Now label these pillars: there’s the trust you earn from your employees and customers, the smarts that facilitate learning and innovation, the teams that collaborate and share ideas, the taste that gives your product depth and the story that gives your brand its purpose.

    Now let’s take a look at the five pillars that support the soft edge.

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    Key ideas in The Soft Edge

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    What is The Soft Edge about?

    This book (2014) is about the “soft edge” – that is, the human side – of business. If you don’t want to be left foundering in the wake of your competitors, your company needs something more – more creativity and flexibility, more passion. The soft edge is the wellspring of such attributes. Your company’s soft edge might seem elusive at first, but remember: finding it is absolutely critical for long-lasting success.

    Best quote from The Soft Edge

    Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for organizations to work. – Warren Bennis

    —Rich Karlgaard
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    Who should read The Soft Edge?

    • Entrepreneurs and people working in start-ups
    • Managers, CEOs and other business leaders
    • Anyone who wants to understand more about the human side of business

    About the Author

    Rich Karlgaard is the publisher of Forbes, where he also writes the column Innovation Rules. His 2004 book Life 2.0: How People Across America are Transforming Their Lives by Finding the Where of Their Happiness was on the Wall Street Journal’s best seller list.


    ©Rich Karlgaard: The Soft Edge copyright 2014, John Wiley & Sons Inc. Used by permission of John Wiley & Sons Inc. and shall not be made available to any unauthorized third parties.

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