How to play hardball

Do you really want to wipe out the competition? Stefan Stern spells out the Six Ps that drive the steeliest business winners.

Do you love the smell of napalm in the morning? According to some business gurus, you had better acquire the taste. Blood-curdling competition, emerging all the time both at home and from distant corners of the globe, threatens to steal your living away. In this context, the only sensible course of action is to toughen up, and get lean and mean.

When George Stalk and Rob Lachenauer published their article 'Hardball' in the April 2004 edition of the Harvard Business Review (see box p53), these Boston Consulting Group VPs gave expression to a growing orthodoxy that until then had dared not speak its name.

But Stalk and Lachenauer's approach is unflinching. Why are you in business, they ask ... is it to get by, to have fun, to be nice - or is it to win?

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