Panthers, Broncos Differ on Talent Advantage vs. System Advantage

By Aaron Sorensen

Will the winner of the Super Bowl be the talent-advantaged Panthers or system-advantaged Broncos?

The Broncos’ Gary Kubiak, according to one local sports report, “is a true systems coach…he has become a master of the system he runs, and that is what he uses.”

Ron Rivera of the Panthers follows advice he received from Hall of Fame coach John Madden, who told him: “You hear all the time about coaching by the book. Right?…He coached by the book. He should have gone by the book. Ron, here’s the secret. There is no book.”

Organizations outside the world of sports have the same choice when it comes to an operating model: a Talent Advantage Model or a System Advantage Model—two distinct business models, either of which can create competitive advantage and drive sustained organizational performance.

The Talent Advantage Model relies on deploying better talent than competitors in the most critical roles. That’s the choice made by companies like Tesla, PepsiCo, Whole Foods, and the Four Seasons Hotels. In a Systems Advantage Model, competitive advantage comes from world-class processes and systems. Systems advantage organizations hire talent to fit the system versus finding the “best athlete.” Think FedEx, Amazon, GE, and the Mayo Clinic. These aren’t binary choices. Organizations that use a talent advantage model have systems and processes too, but that’s not their primary source of competitive advantage. The Broncos are loaded with talent, and the Panthers rely on a 4-3 defensive model that goes back to the 1950’s.

Regardless of the model of your organization, success depends on three essential prerequisites.

First, strengthening the alignment of strategy, operating model and talent with your model is required to improve the organization’s performance. Having an offensive scheme that is aligned with Cam Newton’s talent and athleticism has paid tremendous dividends for the Panthers in this talent advantage model.

Second, implementing an operating model that aligns with the strategy and culture will increase the probability of success. Kubiak’s career includes 11 years (1995-2005) as an assistant coach for the Broncos before he took over the head coaching job in 2015. Clearly, Kubiak is on the same page as GM John Elway and majority owner Pat Bowlen.

Finally, success depends on a focused team with the mechanics (roles, responsibilities and cadence) and dynamics focused within the selected model. There’s a reason why the NFL pays for 150 rings for the winning Super Bowl team. It really does take an entire team—from a 20+ person coaching staff to a wide range of back office operations personnel—to make it to the big game.

So which business model will you be betting on?

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